Yesterday, 2 October 2018, marked the 51st birthday of Namibia’s only Olympic medallist and one of the most unlucky sprinters in the history of athletics, Frank ‘Frankie’ Fredericks.
The Windhoek-born sprinter first made a name for himself in the USA’s collegiate athletics system, earning numerous All-American citations and three NCAA championships in the services of Brigham Young University (where he had won a scholarship).
At the 1991 World Championships, Fredericks rose to prominence by finishing second to the great Michael Johnson in the 200m.
It was a sign of things to come from the Namibian, who picked up silver medals in both the 100m and 200m at the Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain, the following year. Fredericks was beaten to the 100m crown by Great Britain’s Linford Christie and the 200m by American Michael Marsh.
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He put that disappointment behind him to become his nation’s first-ever world champion at the Stuttgart Championships in 1993 when he triumphed in the 200m, and followed that up with gold in the same distance at the following year’s Commonwealth Games – his record of 19.97 still stands for the competition today.
The 1996 Olympics in Atlanta should have seen Fredericks finally claim a sought-after gold medal, but he was again desperately unlucky to pick up silvers in both the 100m and 200m.
In the former he was beaten by a world-record time of 9.84 by Canadian Donovan Baily, while in the latter it was another all-time best from Michael Johnson, 19.32, to deny the Namibian.
Fredericks 200m run of 19.68 at the Atlanta Olympics was the third fastest in history at the time, underlining how unlucky he was not to have claimed a gold medal in his career.
The sprinter’s career gradually wound up in the next eight years, and he retired from professional track and field in 2004.
He finished with the enviable statistic of having broken the 20-second barrier in the 200m 24 times (as well as being the oldest sprinter to break the mark in the 200m, at the age of 34) and the 10-second barrier in the 100m 27 times.