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Down but not out

NIGEL AND MAKWALA WILL BOUNCE BACK

The Botswana team which went to represent the nation at the ongoing IAAF championships will return home empty handed after failing to rise to the occasion in one of the biggest international athletics competition. Many are wondering what could have gone wrong and the prospects of Botswana athletes going forward.


With Amantle Montsho in the shadows, the nations’ hopes for a medal at the IAAF were solely pinned on Nigel Amos’ prowess. In his last outings, Amos proved to be slowly but surely becoming invincible to his perennial rival David Rudisha of Kenya. Since striding gloriously away from the field at the London 2012 Olympics in a world record time of 1min 40.91sec, Rudisha has met Amos six times. And he lost in every single race.


Amos had one strategy, as British publication The Guardian observes: “sit on Rudisha’s shoulder as he moved from third at the bell to second and then first, before unleashing those whirling arms and whirring legs with 50m remaining to edge ahead by half a metre”. “I wasn’t expecting a tactical race,” said Amos to The Guardian after defeating Rudisha four weeks ago. “I expected something much faster. I used to watch his videos as a youth, so running with him is a dream came true.”


Despite his dominance over his nemesis in the Diamond League, the nation watched in shock and disbelief as the confident lad crashed out of the competition. Amos failed to reach the finals after finishing third in the semis of the IAAF 800m race.


Amos has tumbled where it mattered most, and Rudisha piped him to the Gold Medal. Had Amos finished second, he would have had the opportunity to take on Rudisha once again in the final to prove his dominance but he finished 3rd, much to the Kenyan’s pleasure.


All is not lost though, next year the two will meet in the Olympics, provided both athletes remain injury free. At 21 years, Amos still has plenty years ahead of him- a silver lining on the cloud for him, and the nation. But he still has to learn to win big tournaments and not play second to Rudisha.


Another athlete who was put on the pedestal going into the competition was Isaac Makwala, only to also disappoint his myriad supporters. Ahead of the competition, the sprinter was breaking records.


He became the fastest man in Africa’s 400m setting a record of 44.01. Just two days short of the record’s first anniversary, Wayde van Niekerk shaved off 0.05 from that mark.


Makwala was back to his best less than 24 hours after South Africa’s van Niekerk broke his African record with 43.96 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris, but Makwala overturned that by making a sensational 43.72 run at the Resisprint meeting in the Swiss city of La Chaux-de-Fonds.


Most of his achievements came in the shadow of Amos’ domineering personality, who since his London 2012 Olympic exploits has been the face of Botswana in athletics.


Makwala however had a brilliant start in the competition and was able to reach the final, while many were still wailing about Amos’ heartbreaking defeat. He finished first in the semi-final improving his prospects of winning Gold in the final.


However the Tutume born sprinter finished the final on fifth position, ending hopes of any medal for Botswana at this year’s competition. Makwala will celebrate his 29th birthday on the 29th of September this year.


Makwala is probably at his prime and unlike Amos, his last opportunity could be next year’s Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. Prior to the competition, Makwala was in fine form. It is important that going into next year’s show, Makwala makes amendments and avoids stumbling at the last hurdle like he did this year.  


Long-time athletics favourite, Amantle Montsho has now slipped into oblivion following last year‘s doping scandal which resulted in her being suspended from international competitions.


At the time of her suspension, Montsho was already showing signs of fragility. When her ban is lifted, she will face an uphill task, if she is ever to compete again. No doubt, age has already caught up with her.


At 32, Monthso maybe be contemplating hanging her boots because sooner than later as her hey days could be behind her. Athletes slow down after going beyond 30, a reminder to Batswana that we might have seen Montsho’s better days already.
It is however worrisome that the failure of Botswana athletes to reach their maximum potential in bigger tournament is becoming a theme. Three years ago at London Olympics, Montsho was at her pick.


She had an incredible tournament and reached the final of the 400m women. Having beaten United States’ Allyson Felix a year earlier at 2001 IAAF championship, another American, Sanya Richard-Ross was out for revenge. Montsho was not only beaten by Ross in the final but finished fourth, and missed out on an Olympic medal.  


Botswana was represented by Isaac Makwala, Nigel Amos, Leaname Maotoanong, Sakarea Kamberuka, Onkabetse Nkobolo and Kabelo Kgosiyang.
   
AMOS NOT YET FADED – COACHES

A collective of homegrown top-tier athletics coaches have altogether disagreed with the unpleasant and dreaded notion that the curse of lacklustre International arena domination that has ceaselessly afflicted the nation’s top athletes in Amantle Montsho and Isaac Makwala seem to be lurking around the career of youthful 800 meter racer Nigel Amos.


According to BISA Athletics Youth Chief Coach specializing in sprint, Chilume Ntshwarang Nigel Amos is Olympic class and did not lose his finals qualifying heat due to lack of fitness and fine physical conditioning but attributed it to the awkward 800 meters contest. Ntshwarang pointed Amos’ defeat to the complex and slow start of the race whose initial snail’s pace ensured the crowding up of athletes and disruption of Amos latter lap unrestricted sprinting style.


Ntshwarang who described Amos loss as “just an unfortunate case” said that when “the athletes changed pace Amos charged for the finishing line late forcing him to battle with maneuvering the crowded track therefore losing valuable time.” Ntshwarang also believes that Amos fell victim to an anti-competition maneuver called ‘caging’ which he says is common in middle distance races by the athletes.


Athletics coach and Chairperson of the Botswana Integrated Sports Association (BISA) Coaches Committee, Isaac Mbise fingers fatigue for Amos defeat. Mbise retorted that Amos performance at the recent IAAF in Lausanne Switzerland left his body fatigued.

The top coach also believes that local athletes who have already paid their dues and made their mark in athletics such as Nigel Amos and Isaac Makwala should be exempt for competitions such as Africa championships and All Africa Games as they wear out athletes.

“Accomplished athletes should be made to pave way for upcoming athletes such as Nkobolo and Pako Seribe in continental championships, have you ever seen Usain Bolt compete at the commonwealth games or Rudisha at continental competitions? Mbise rhetorically asked.


The top coach also poured scorn on the idea that Amos could have lost due to indiscipline saying on another day Amos would emerge victorious.


Another BISA and COSASSA coach dedicated to sprint Innocent Sibanda, believes that the Rudisha camp had calculated Amos style of running. Sibanda believes that the intentionally snail paced first lap with the second lap fast-paced and revved up stood in divergence with Amos traditional style of running and its 400 meter sprint burned up Amos reserves, as he normally sprints in the last 100-150 meters. Sibanda believes Nigel Amos can still rule over Rudisha again and that’s it’s all a matter of a game plan.

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News

Two of a kind emerge

1st March 2021
Letsile Tebogo and Maungo Matlhaku

Events that recently unfolded in the athletics world locally point only to possibility – Letsile Tebogo and Maungo Matlhaku are well groomed to receive the baton from Isaac Makwala and Lydia Jele respectively.

The two athletes sprinted to new local track records, smashing those set by their seniors.

As it is the norm in athletics, the biggest mistake these two athletes could make is to drop the baton. The two youngsters must not look back, they must steeplechase – clear all the hurdles so they may surpass the feet achieved by their seniors.

Letsile Tebogo announced his arrival in scintillating fashion recently. Barely two years after smashing Thebe’s 200m national record of 21:25 during Gaborone Games in 2019, this past weekend the young lad obliterated yet another 100m national record of 10.20 seconds. For a long time the record was held by the country’s iconic athlete Isaac Makwala.

Tebogo set a new record, completing the race in 10.14 seconds. Tebogo, who is currently under Lefika Athletics Club, came into the meet, organised by Sports View Runners Club, with a personal best of 10.49 seconds.

However, the new national record was not good enough for Tebogo to qualify for the Olympic Games as he needed to clock 10.05 seconds; which is the Olympic qualifying entry under the 100meters category. For his efforts, he received P1 000 cash and a trophy.

Under the women’s category, Leungo Matlhaku also stole the show after clocking 11.24 seconds to replace Lydia Jele’s national record of 11.39 seconds which she set in May 2019.

When speaking to local media after the race, Matlhaku assured the nation to expect the best performance at the upcoming events as she aims to qualifying for Tokyo Olympics and World Championships.

The sensational 100m sprinter said: “Even though after almost nine months without training, performance was testimony of the fact that the best was yet to come.”

Matlhaku noted that setting new national records was an indication that athletes were at their peak performance and that the upcoming national meets would be appetizing with the positive performance.

This week WeekendSport caught up with Tebogo, who expressed his gratitude to the national team athletes as the pillar behind his strength since they encouraged him to work hard. He agrees that he needs to habituate himself to hard work.

He said Saturday’s performance helped him realise his dream of qualifying for the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics which was postponed last year due to the outbreak of Covid-19.

“For me to qualify for the upcoming Olympics under 100 meters category, I will have to clock 10.05 seconds which is qualification entry while under 200meter is 20.24 seconds,” he shared.

When quizzed how Covid-19 has affected his preparation he said: “It has affected us badly as preparation training for the competition was halted, but the lockdown imposed was however useful as I used the period to work out on my strength which are necessary for a sprinter.”

Tebogo started seriously taking part in athletics in 2016 when he was still at primary school. At the time he was under the guidance of former national team coach, Mogomotsi Otsetswe.

In 2016 during Botswana Primary School Sports Association (BOPSSA) competitions, he won three gold medals in 100m, 200m and 4x100m relays.

Despite not winning anything the previous year, 2018 saw him come back well prepared and went on to win two gold medals under the 200m category and 4X100m relays. He also won a silver medal after a sterling performance in the 100m race during the Botswana Integrated Sports Association (BISA) national finals.

Tebogo went on to win the gold medal after clocking an impressive time of 21:12, qualifying for under 20 World Athletics Championships which was to be held in Kenya last year but was postponed yet again due to corona virus.

Over the last 10 years, Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) has been famed for its consistency when it comes to producing the country’s top athletes, who are dominating and widening the competition gap with other sporting codes.

The code success expresses itself in elite talents the likes of Baboloki Thebe, Nigel Amos, Amantle Montsho and Karabo Sibanda to mention but a few.

These top talents made sure athletics remain at the top in this country.

 

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Sport

P120m BFA Academy dream shattered

1st March 2021
Jim James Ratcliffe - Ineos Group Ltd

Botswana Football Association (BFA) leadership is devastated after Ineos Group Ltd, a British multinational chemicals company, somersaulted on their initial promise to build a multi-million Pula football academy and instead travelled up north to pitch camp in Ivory Coast.

This publication has learnt that Ineos Group which had signed contracts with the association was at a very advanced stage to erect a P120 million state-of-the-art academy in a plot located behind the national stadium in Gaborone.

According to close sources, Ineos however grew frustrated by Botswana’s lengthy and haphazard processes and procedures that led them nowhere and only served to waste more time. Ineos were reportedly irked by the delay and dumped BFA before the end of last year.

Things took a nasty twist in April of 2018 when Botswana leadership reshuffled the cabinet. Ministry of Sport faces therefore changed as Thapelo Olopeng was replaced by Tshekedi Khama.

It is said that under Olopeng, processes were fast tracked as the cabinet was briefed, and endorsed the development. Things started moving at a snail’s space after Khama took office. It emerges that the then Minister had to freeze every move after reports came thick and fast that some National Executive Committee members were almost secret shareholders of the academy.

The matter was so volatile that it reached the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) offices for further investigations.

While that seemingly turned off Ineos group, the straw that would broke the camel’s back was the realisation that some appointed architects had dragged the association to court for failing to adhere to agreed terms.

However, one high ranking BFA official said that indeed Ineos group has abandoned talks and have up and left.

“I do not want to dwell much on the story of corona virus effects, but what I can tell you is that there was a lot of petty talks surrounding this academy, and this was never going to take us anywhere. We were dealing with professionals and they are gone,” the NEC member said.

It was indicated that BFA was at a stage of re- engaging the British chemical engineer turned financier and industrialist, Sir James Ratcliffe to start pumping money into the project that was to run for a period of two years.

Ratcliffe had frequented the country on three occasions, precisely at Lekidi Football Centre, since MacLean Letshwiti assumed the BFA power seat in 2016.

The main reason for the visits, WeekendSport had learnt was to discuss setting up the academy as well as to assess the possible piece of land where the academy would be set up.

The state-of-the-art facility, according to the site layout included-among others-accommodation for up to 80 people; indoor training facility; fully equipped gym; Restaurant for both academy and public meals. High tech media conference centre that can seat 80, 3 x full size top of range FIFA approved turf fields, artificial turf 5-a-side fields, boardroom and office space and on site medical services (doctor and physiotherapists).

In addition, the project will help upgrade the netball facilities as well as install a multi-sport zone for public use.The facility was not only to be used for football but was to be a commercial structure which would be used to generate money to run itself.

BFA said the objectives of the academy was to provide young footballers from Botswana an opportunity to transform into better footballers at a world class facility in their home country.

Furthermore, it was to allow the best players to travel to Lausanne, Switzerland- a country that also houses the FIFA headquarters- to complete a further two years of academy training and education that will eventually avail them the opportunity to become professional footballers in Europe and elsewhere.

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Sport

Nijel to sell Olympic medal

1st March 2021
NIJEL AMOS

Botswana Olympic medallist, Nijel Amos has written to the Botswana National Sport Commission requesting permission to sell the silver medal he won at London 2012 Olympics.

BNSC is currently seized with the request and contemplating the best solution. According to sources at BNSC, the sports organisation is unwilling to give in to Amos’ demands of selling the medal as they believe it is a national treasure.

It is the first medal the country won at the Olympics- a major sports competition.”They have turned him down and are planning to find ways of assisting him as he said in the letter that he is selling the medal to raise money for his charity and also to raise money for himself,” said a source.

“They have been in contact with him to see how they can assist him in that regard and should he turn them down they plan to buy the medal from him and put it either at the museum or somewhere where people can come and see the medal just like in other countries.”

The 27 year-old 800 meter athlete clinched Botswana’s first ever and only Olympic medal at the Summer Olympics in 2012 held in London, United Kingdom.

Amos confirmed to this publication that he has written to BNSC but he is yet to receive feedback from them. “I have to get permission before selling it. I am now waiting for them to give me feedback. I cannot tell you why I want to sell the medal out of respect because the matter is still being discussed,” said Amos.

Acting BNSC Chief Executive Officer, Tuelo Serufho confirmed that they have received the letter and are still finding possible ways of dealing with the issue since it is the first of its kind.

“We have not yet finalised on how to best deal with the issue as you are aware it is a very delicate matter and needs serious attention. We will find the best way to solve it and we hope to soon meet with the athlete and engage him on how to deal with it,” said Serufho.

Botswana made her Olympic debut in 1980, Moscow, Russia and only managed to get a silver medal in 2012 through Marobela born Amos who was a teenager at the time.

Amos clocked 1:41:73 seconds, behind Kenya’s David Rudish. The time turned out to be a set-up of some fierce competition between the two athletes since then till to now.

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