Old stars, new sparkle

Baitshepi Sekgweng
FLYING THE FLAG: The 4x400m African champs
  • Athletics next generation ready to shine alongside veterans

Exactly a month to go until the World Athletics Championships, Botswana’s hopes of American glory rest squarely on male shoulders and a combination of the old guard and the next generation.

At the moment, not a single local lady has run fast enough to qualify for the global sporting spectacle, ranked second only to the Olympic Games in the athletics calendar.

With deadline for qualification on 26 June, this is unlikely to change.

In total, five BW athletes will compete in individual races, while the ever-reliable men’s 4x400m relay team will also be present in Oregon for the mega event, set for 15 – 24 July.

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To date, the legendary Amantle Montsho remains the only Motswana to win a World Championship medal, following up her Gold in Daugu in 2011 with Silver in Moscow two years later.

Since then, the cabinet has remained depressingly bare, Baboloki Thebe coming closest to adding to the silverware with a 4th placed finish in the 400m at London 2017.

Stalwarts, Isaac Makwala, 36, and Nijel Amos, 28, have both crossed the line in 5th before; they will need to be at their brilliant best if they are to improve on this.

Three of the country’s new stars will be making their debut at the event. Led by 19-year-old Letsile Tebogo in the 100m, the young pack also includes the impressive Anthony Pesela, 20, and Bayapo Ndori, 22.

Old stars, new sparkle
NEW HOPE: Letsile Tebogo

Speaking to Voice Sport this week, shortly after returning from the Africa Senior Championships in Mauritius where Team BW managed seven medals, national team coach, Justice Dipeba said he was excited to see what the youngsters can do.

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“It is great news for us because we want to see upcoming athletes qualifying for this major championships. We are looking at seeing more of those new faces because it’s a good experience for them competing at this level. This shows there is good development and direction. We don’t want a situation where there is a gap when older athletes retire,” noted Dipeba.

Old stars, new sparkle

The men’s 400m relay team, which famously won bronze at the Olympics last year, also includes new faces, in the form of 18-year-old Collen Kebinatshipi and Keitumetse Maitseo, 23. The talented Leungo Scotch, 26, will also be there to add his explosive quality.

Asked if this marked the start of a new era for local athletics, Dipeba responded, “This is sport, sometimes you go through phases like this. You are not always going to be at the top; young athletes will come and do better.

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Old stars, new sparkle

“We don’t want to see the same faces time and again so it’s important to have a feeder. It’s not about where we will be without them, this is what we want. It’s not like they are saving our lives, athletes come and go.”

As for the lack of female representation, the coach admitted it was a concern.

Old stars, new sparkle

“It’s a struggle in the ladies, they’re going through a rough phase and we don’t see good times coming. For a long time we have been struggling with ladies in terms of numbers and performances so that’s what we are experiencing right now. It’s worrisome but it’s something we will look at and see how we can fix it and recruit more ladies on board,” declared Dipeba.

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