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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.

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