Frankie Fredericks, Windhoek
“I basically believe in the Heavenly Father, and I believe He gave us all these talent and I’m making the best out of it.”
Former athletics world champion and four times Olympic silver medalist, Frankie Fredericks is the only man to have run the 200m (Indoors) under 20secs, holding the world record in the event at 19.92secs, a feat he achieved on February 18, 1996. Fredericks’ time of 19.97secs set in Victoria, Canada in 1994 still stands today as the Commonwealth Games record in the 200m.
Born on October 2, 1967 in Windhoek, Frankie Fredericks was still an infant when his parents split and went their separate ways. His mother, Rieke Fredericks who worked as a seamstress for a white family raised him in Katutura, a tough black township outside Namibia’s capital city, Windhoek. His father was a farmer named Andries Kangootui and he visited occasionally.
“No defender could stop me. I had such speed and skills…”
Growing up in a period when Namibia was still under South African rule, Fredericks attended DsËbra, a segregated Catholic school famous for its football teams, located 20miles outside Windhoek. After three years, and at the age of 16 Fredericks was offered a scholarship at a newly formed but also segregated private school, Concordia in Windhoek. At this time, he played football.
“My parents were so poor that they would not be able to afford to pay for my education. I had to use my talent in order to gain a scholarship.”
Unfortunately, while the education at Concordia was wonderful, the football was terrible. Unimpressed and frustrated by the attitude of his team mates on the field, especially when losing games, Frank made a switch to the tracks. With the help of the school’s athletics coach, Koos van Staden who used to drive him to the synthetic track at Windhoek to train, Fredericks became the South African schools champion in the 100m and 200m in his final year.
Although he had scholarship offers from a couple of South African universities, Frank Fredericks instead settled for a management training program with Rossing Uranium Mine Company, moving to the coastal city of Swakopmund in 1987 where he continued to train.
The same year, Fredericks left for the USA on a scholarship to Brigham Young University (BYU), Utah to study Computer Science following a meeting with an assistant coach at BYU, Patrick Shane at the South African Junior Championship. Frank couldn’t compete on the international circuit because Namibia was still a part of South Africa which was barred from international competitions.
However, all this changed following Namibia’s independence on March 21, 1990. The following year at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo, Japan, Fredericks came fifth in the 100m and bagged a silver in the 200m to win Namibia’s first medal following its admission on to the international arena. In 1992, he bagged two silver medals in the 100m and 200m at the Barcelona Olympics.
At the 1993 World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, Namibia’s anthem was played for the first time at an international sporting event when Frankie Fredericks won gold medal in the 200m. A year later, he added gold medals in the 100m and 200m at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada.
In the lead up to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Fredericks was one of the top favorites for the gold medals in both sprint races. In both races, he was beaten to the second place and consigned to a pair of silver medals by world record performances from the eventual winners, Canada’s Donovan Bailey (100m) and Michael Johnson, USA (200m).
“If my country has bigger priorities to attend to, paying for me and my coach’s travel and accommodation costs…isn’t a big deal.”
Frankie continued to win medals and honors for Namibia before retiring from the tracks in 2004 after the outdoor season. There were times he had to fund his trip to fly the national flag at championships like the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester. Fredericks funds and supports the Katutura Youth Enterprise Centre and he has also established the Frankie Fredericks Foundation which gives scholarship to promising young Namibian athletes.
Afro Tourism salutes a phenomenal and legendary African athlete and World Champion, city icon and national hero Frankie Fredericks.
Did You Know?
- Frankie Fredericks holds the world indoor record in the 200m at 19.92secs, a feat he achieved on February 18, 1996 in Liévin, France. He is the only man to have run the 200m (indoors) under 20secs.
- On August 1, 1996 at the final of the 200m Men’s event at the Atlanta Summer Olympics, Fredericks ran a world record time of 19.68secs to beat the previous mark of 19.72sec, but it was only good enough for second place behind Michael Johnson who ran a blistering 19.32secs to win the race, denying Frankie the gold medal.
- Frankie Fredericks ran the 200m under 20secs 24 times in his career, and is the oldest man to run under 20secs when he won the event at a meet in Rome on July 12, 2002 clocking 19.99secs. He was 34 years, 283 days old then.
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