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Back on track

Kabelo Dipholo
CHAMP: Tebogo Letsile

Letsile returns to action in Ghetto

On 17 September, Letsile Tebogo lined-up for the 100m Diamond League final in Eugene, Oregon in the United States of America.

With an estimated 12, 000 spectators in the stadium, the 20-year-old was up against the fastest men on the planet, including World Champion, Noah Lyles, Kenya’s, Ferdinand Omanyala and the legendary Jamaican, Yohan Blake.

Hampered by a niggling hamstring injury, Tebogo was unable to recreate his usual speed, finishing a distant 8th, a rare blip in a career of highs and a disappointing end to a stellar year.

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It was his last competitive race…until now.

Four months later, the quickest Africa has ever seen returns to the track in Ghetto on Saturday as he begins his quest for Olympic glory.

With qualification for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics already secured in the 100m, 200m and 400m disciplines, ‘Schoolboy’ intends to use this Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) series meet to shake off the cobwebs and warm up his turbo-charged engine.

The Kanye-born sprinter will compete in the 400m, which has become a Botswana specialty race.

The country has a proud knack of producing 400m gems, including the legendary Isaac Makwala, Karabo Sibanda, Onkabetse Nkobolo, Bayapo Ndori, Baboloki Thebe, Leungo Scotch, Lydia Jele and the trail blazer, Amantle Montsho.

Both Ndori and Scotch, who made last season’s 400m Diamond League final, are expected to run in Francistown in what should be a race to savior for the fans.

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Speaking to Voice Sport through the week, Tebogo’s coach, Kebonyemodisa Dose Mosimanyana, said the athlete used the off-season to work on his injury.

“Luckily for him the injury came right at the end of the season, so he has been undergoing therapy. This Saturday will tell us how much we’ve done, and what still needs to be done,” said Mosimanyana.

He explained they usually break for eight weeks before getting ready for a new season.

“For Tebogo, his preparation for this season started a little late because he still had a niggling pain that we had to take care of,” revealed the experienced coach, adding his young charge has been pain-free for three weeks now.

“We were really fortunate he got injured at the end of the season, which gave him time to recuperate without missing much,” Mosimanyana reiterated.

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The Eugene hiccup and late injury aside, Tebogo enjoyed an explosive 2023.

Highlights, and there were many, included shattering the African 200m record set at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics by the great Frankie Fredericks. The Namibian ran 19.68 to clinch Silver (coming second to none other than Michael Johnson) and set an African record that would stand for 27 years, until Tebego clocked 19.50 at the Diamond League in London last July.

A month later, the two-time World U20 100m Champion, followed this up with history at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, claiming silver in the 100m (resetting his local record) and bronze in 200m.

In doing so, Tebogo became the first African man to claim a 100m medal, and the first male Motswana to medal at the World Championships.

Before then, only Montsho had stood atop a World Champs’ podium, winning gold in Daegu, South Korea in 2011, and silver in the Russian capital two years later.

“We’ll be out to test and see if we’re fine,” was Tebogo’s humble response to a Voice Sport question.

He said since their programme is slightly behind, he will not push himself too hard but we still put his body through its paces.

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“It’s important to test ourselves at competition level, to see how we cope and whether we can withstand pain if there’s any,” he said.

The sprinter said, depending on how he performs at the weekend, they may continue with the series or opt to compete in Europe.

“It’s a delicate balance, but we’ll see on Saturday,” was Schoolboy’s parting shot.

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The BAA Track and Field Series is sponsored by Debswana. Gates at the Obed Itani Chilume Stadium open at 0800hrs.

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