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Let the games begin

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Let the games begin
BOTSWANA'S GREAT HOPE: Flag bearer Nijel Amos

Amos to lead Team Botswana in Rio

The greatest sporting spectacle on the planet returns on Friday with the official opening of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

Officially known as the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, the best athletes in the world will descend on Brazil for 16 days of absorbing competition, all harbouring golden dreams of glory and fame.

Amongst them will be the 12 proud representatives of Team Botswana, all of whom will be desperate to replicate Nijel Amos’ heroics at the 2012 London Olympics.

Amos was only 18 when he forever etched his name into the history books, stunning the world by winning the silver medal (the nation’s first ever Olympic medal) in the 800m – finishing second only to the legendary David Rudesha in arguably the greatest race of the last Olympics.

Amos has been named the country’s flag-bearer for the opening ceremony – an honour that the Marobela-born runner thoroughly deserves.

Botswana’s golden boy will be desperate to further cement his place amongst the greats by being crowned Olympic champion.

Unlike London however, he will have the weight of the country’s expectations firmly on his broad shoulders – it is a pressure that the laid-back, immensely confident Amos will hopefully embrace.

Whilst the Olympic silver-medallist remains Botswana’s best chance for another medal he is by no means the nation’s only hope.

Indeed Team Botswana’s contingent of 12 – a number that represents the country’s joint-biggest ever squad, equalling the 12 who qualified for Beijing in 2008 – is packed with explosive talent and potential medallists.

This includes the current 400m African champion, 19-year-old sprint sensation Baboloki Thebe, who will run in the 200 and 400m races.

With an abundance of natural, seemingly God-given talent, combined with an unrelenting work ethic and determined willingness to learn, Thebe has taken the world of athletics by storm recently.

Thebe will be joined in both races by Isaac Makwala, 29, a veteran of the last Olympics, who, on his day, is capable of beating the world’s elite.

Let the games begin
READY TO COMPETE: Team BW

Along with Amos, the duo make up part of Botswana’s 4x400m relay team, which also includes Onkabetse Nkobolo, Leaname Maotoanong and Karabo Sibanda.

The team go into the games full of confidence and will be optimistic of securing a place in the finals at the very least.

Whilst the squad will be without stalwart Amantle Montsho, whose two-year ban ended just after the qualification period had closed, youngsters Christine Botlogetswe, 19, and Lydia Jele, 26, will compete in the ladies 400m.

The athletics squad is completed by Boitumelo Masilo, who celebrates his 21st birthday on the day of the opening ceremony, and will represent the country in the 800m alongside Amos.

For the first time in its history, Botswana will compete in the swimming pool, with Florida-based Naomi Ruele racing in the 50m freestyle and David Van Der Colff qualifying for the same distance in the men’s category.

It is a remarkable achievement from the two swimmers, although they will be up against it to progress from the heats.

In another exciting first, Botswana will have an athlete in the Judo competition, with 20-year-old Judoka Gavin Mogopa fighting in the U/60kg category.

These 12 intrepid athletes will take part in the Games alongside 11, 239 other competitors from a total of 206 countries.

They represent the hopes and dreams of an expectant nation and Voice Sport wishes them the best of luck!