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Montsho primed for one last Olympic chance

Fear is only a feeling, it cannot hold me back, the past is gone, today is now and I face it head on. Today I see each moment as an opportunity to express my greatness. An opportunity is simply a possibility until I act on it. Thank you Batswana for your great support and I want to thank God for so many reasons. I love you all, only three hours left then we will see what happens.

These were Amantle Montshoâ’s words of courage and hope before she was to face 50 seconds of a life defining moment at the London Olympics games in the 400m race.The eyes of the world were watching in great but tense anticipation as Montsho, then 28 years old, was about to confirm herself as one of the greatest athlete of her generation, but in the end, it turned out that the 400m track and field indomitable queen succumbed to that fear.

Her eyes and that of Batswana shed a tear when she finished fourth in a devastating race dominated and bossed by American rivals. It was her second Olympic Games finals.Montsho made a fringe appearance at her Olympics debut in 2004 in Greece. Not much was expected from her then.However, it was 12 years ago in Beijing when the transition from hope to realisation started to take shape.

She qualified to the finals but came last in a breath-taking race won by Christine Ohuruogu of Great Britain while Sanya Richards Ross got bronze.But in the 2012 Olympics, Richards-Ross became the first American woman to take a gold medal in the track and field of women’s 400 metres final.

With a time of 49.55 seconds, her fellow American mate, Dee Dee Trotter — the then latest contender to the throne — came in third place in a race in which the first four runners, Amantle included went under 50 seconds.And four years later, the opportunity refused to present itself again. She watched the 2016 Olympics Games held in Brazil on the side-lines as she served a two-year suspension for testing positive on a banned substance.

Although she returned a year later to turn back the hands of time at the Commonwealth games, it became a testament that Montsho’s talent can carry her beyond unimaginable heights.Whatever one may think of the Botswana queen, it is hard to argue and it was also some statement.At 34, Montsho had run 400m in 50.15sec, not only a season’s best but the tenth recorded best time of the Commonwealth games, this was in April, when most athletes were still shaking off their rust from yester year.

It was more difficult to argue a case for Montsho who has won every medal on global stages, who has chased down time and shattered some national records, but again, who never won any Olympic medal.
The Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) Chief Executive Officer, Tuelo Serufho is however adamant that this is a chance for Montsho to win an Olympic medal in her otherwise illustrious career.
It is of course one more opportunity for her to win a medal that lacks in her medal cabinet, I have hope, he said.Besides this, Olympic medal jinxed Montsho has already secured her greatness as an athlete.

Now she hopes to leave a legacy far beyond the finishing line. Will she be on the verge of her greatest victory yet? At the age of 36 years, when many athletes are going past their peak, it is difficult to tell.She has won numerous medals collected at different taxing international stages.One more medal at Tokyo 2020 – her 12th in her career- would make her immortal: the undisputed greatest of all time in Botswana. To this date, she has 11 medals, of which 8 are gold and 3 are silver.

Montsho has seen it all. From cusps of glory to the jaws of hell. At one point in her race, she was beaten cruelly just fractions of a second at the finishing line. One day, 8 years ago, she applied the same tactic on her fiercest rival, Allyson Felix, to change the colour of the medal; from silver to gold.The doping scandal four years ago might come with a black mark on her fulfilling career, but Montsho’s races are well documented in the world and has battled strong characters from all corners of the athletic globe.Sanya Richard Ross, Allison Felix and Dee Dee Trotter together with Great Britain’s Christine Ohuruogu are some of the world- class names the Botswana queen has taken to the sword.

But arriving for the third time onto the Olympic stage, Montsho’s contest is expected to shape up as a battle between familiar opponents.  Legendary Felix has also qualified but there are other newly born athletes of this race.Montsho’s standing has never been in serious doubt. The re-affirmation of her pre-eminence should give the Tokyo 2020 Olympic stadium yet another precious memory. Like it did 8 years ago at the world athletics championship, recording an impressive time of 49.54, which many believed was a corner stone of her career.

Many doubted her especially after she tested positive. But thanks to this experience earned in many years of running, Montsho finally became the face of the country when she notched a qualification over the past weekend. The way that she ran was much better than past championship and qualification dull moments. In fact, she is now the reason why rivalry exists between her and the rest of the world.As the eight runners stepped into their blocks, the University of Botswana stadium seethed with a combination of tension and sheer glee. The Maun born champion came out of blocks very comfortably but seemed to struggle alone the way to the podium finish, but as the crowning moment presented itself, all her supporters who were watching knew how lucky they were to witness a race that turned out to fulfil their expectations.

She was turbo charged from position four and loped her way to a respectable time ” a time that was good enough to book another meeting with 400m heavyweights in Tokyo Japan.

Sport

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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