Is this Botswana’s best Olympic team ever?
by Botlhale Koothupile
As Botswana’s Olympic team enters the final stretch of its 2012 London Olympics, the team will go into the games knowing it carries the country’s hopes of bringing back an historic maiden medal.
Ever since the country started taking part in the Olympics 22 years ago, the country is yet to win a medal though it had seen its athletes go as far as the finals.
However, unlike with the past teams, this year’s team goes into the games carrying a heavy weight of a nation highly expecting a maiden medal from the games.
Already tagged ‘the country’s greatest Olympic team ever,’ in some quarters, it is yet to be seen whether the team will live up to this billing, more so looking at the ability of the team’s athletes. The nation’s expectations were made even clearer by Minister Shaw Kgathi in his keynote address during the team’s official send off.
“By my own admission, this is perhaps one of the greatest teams to ever represent Botswana at the Olympics…. I must admit that when the Olympic movement was founded, it really never occurred to us that in our lifetime, we will be celebrating a Motswana world champion, let alone internationally-acclaimed athlete. Our present experience as a country lives true to the words once uttered by the founding President of this Republic, Sir Seretse Khama, who said, “It is not long before we dethrone the Russians of their medals and the English of their World Cup trophy.”
Made up of star athletes Amantle Montsho, Isaac Makwala, Nijel Amos and Pako Seribe as well as boxer Oteng Oteng, the team is brimming with potential medal hopefuls.
In Montsho, who is the reigning African and World women’s 400 meters champion, the country has its brightest medal prospect. Unlike in 2004 and 2008 when she was deemed an underdog, Montsho, who will be making her third appearance at the games, will go into the games as a favourite to finish in the podium. Now aged 29 and at her peak, this year’s games will be the penultimate for the Maun-born lass.
Apart from Montsho, another athlete likely to surprise will be the reigning Africa’s 400 meters men champion, Makwala. After struggling to qualify outright for the games, the 26-year-old seems to have finally found his footing as he showed at the Africa Senior championships later last month where he won gold and qualified for the Olympic outright. Should he continue showing his current form, the Jamaican based athlete, who will be making his debut Olympic appearance is likely to surprise many.
Another athlete with a good medal prospect in the team will be Amos. The teenager, who at 18 years of age is the team’s youngest member, has been showing great form and has clocked this year’s second fastest time in 800 meters’ men’s race. Another young athlete who will be seeking to make his stamp on the international arena will be another 400 meters runner, Seribe. One of the first athletes to qualify for the games, albeit with a B standard qualification, the 21-year-old has been showing signs of greatness and can cause upsets.
Another 21-year-old in the Olympic team and medal hopeful is the team’s only none track athlete, Oteng. Already the reigning African Champion and Botswana’s Sportsman of the Year, the boxer is a real medal contender for the country.