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World Athletics REJECTS Letsile’s 9.96 record

On the 30th of April 2022, Letsile Tebogo was able to break the world record for the U20 100m with a time of 9.96 seconds. Among the other individuals who crossed the line that day were South Africa’s Henricho Bruintjies and Benjamin Richardson.

For eight years, Trayvon Bromell of the US had been the only athlete to break the 100m record at the U20 level. Through his time, Tebogo became only the second athlete in history to break the record.

It was a bold statement that Botswana was able to produce an athlete capable of breaking world records in the U20 100m. However, just a month after the event, the record was not ratified. World Athletics, formerly International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) has put to an end to Letsile and Botswana’s joy. This means that the country’s hopes of developing a sprinting program are over.

According to the monthly newsletter of World Athletics, they have rejected the 9.96 seconds that Tebogo recorded. The governing body for track and field noted that there was no evidence indicating that the race timing equipment was subjected to gun tests.

The 18 year old sprinter was not the only athlete to have his record denied by the athletics body. The 4x100m record that was set by Jamaica during the 49th Carifta Games in Kingston was also denied.

The governing body of track and field, which is headed by Sebastian Coe, also noted that the 42.48 seconds that was set by the Jamaican team comprising of Serena Cole, Tina Clayton, Brianna Lyston, and Tia Clayton at the games in mid-April was denied due to the presence of only three out of the four athletes who were tested following the race. This was a clear violation of the rules, it said.

Nevertheless, World Athletics rule book of 2010-2011 stipulates that the following should have occurred for the world record claim to stand:
1. Zero Gun Test (Rule 165.19) shall be performed before the start of every event this shall ensure that the Chief Judge, starter and Track referee ensures that the gun starts automatically and all the equipment is working as prescribed in the rule book.

2. Rule 165.14 outlines that the test should fall within the set limit and that fully automatic photo finish equipment shall be used which has been approved and verified of which a test of accuracy should have been done within 4 years.

On Wednesday, the Botswana Athletics Association, confirmed that the world record that Tebogo set in the U20 100m was not ratified. According to Pinkie Wilson, the general manager of the association, World Athletics decided not to ratify the record.

Despite the ruling not to ratify the record, Wilson noted that the time that Tebogo set in the U20 100m remains valid. He also qualified for the World Championships in Oregon. “The decision resulted from lack of conducting a zero- gun test during the test of the timing equipment, which is required to confirm the accuracy of timing equipment prior to a race.

Nonetheless, the zero test was conducted post the event which World Athletics acknowledged and appraised. Due to submission post the event, World Athletics could not consider the application,” reads a statement from BAA.

In an interview, Oabona Theetso, the vice president of the BAA, said that the association is responsible for the technical issues that occurred during the event. He also noted that no one will be held accountable for the negative effects of the issue. “It’s a lesson learned, so we shall avoid repetition of such adversities going forward,” Theetso noted.

Letsile told WeekendSport despite been disappointed, by the outcome, it doesn’t stop him going forward as he said everything has its own obstacles further revealing that his coach told him to head up and continue putting some good work.

In his first official appearance for the Wanda Diamond League, the teenage sensation from Botswana, Letsile, participated in the Prefontaine Classic in Oregon. He was joined by a star-studded line-up that included Olympic and world medalists such as Trayvon Bromell, Christian Coleman, and Andre De Grasse. He ultimately finished off on the fifth position with a time of 10.12 while the actual race was won by Bromell with a time of 9.93 followed by Kerly who clocked 9.98 sec.

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