The image of Amantle Victor-Nkape and swimmer James Freeman hoisting high Botswana’s flag during the opening ceremony of the ongoing might have been just another image to many.
For those who have been following the country’s sport however, this was an iconic moment, not least because it showed the unity of the black and white nation of Botswana.
This was a moment when the old guard composed mostly of track athletes, handed the flag to a new generation of multi-sport athletes of Botswana. And who better to hand over than Victor-Nkape, nee Montsho!
Long before the likes of Nijel Amos and Isaac Makwala became household names, the 38-year-old Mabudutsa born athlete had been the country’s most recognised sport icon and ambassador.
While she may not be the country’s first world champion, (the record belongs to Karate’s Mpho Bakwadi), she is however the most widely recognised world champion to come out of Botswana.
She is also the country’s first woman world champion and the country’s first woman Olympian for that matter. Her successes inspired the country’s track athletes and in particular the female athletes.
It comes as no surprise that when Amantle called time in her career about three years ago, the country’s sport leaders and coaches pleaded with her to come back to lead the country’s women team to then Olympics for one more time.
Now as she makes her last hooray at the Olympics, it was fitting that the 400m women track star be the flagbearer for Botswana.
Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) vice president, Oabona Theetso says it means a lot for Montsho and BAA that she as a senior athlete and ladies captain got to be a flag bearer at the Tokyo Olympics.
“She is being recognised by the powers that be. I think through this, she got the recognition she deserves,” the BAA vice president observes.
Theetso however says he hopes that after retirement, she will be kept close to the association and not be allowed to lose touch with athletics.
He said as an athlete, Amantle was celebrated and extensively used by other stakeholders on their different activities to inspire young athletes. Theetso says he hopes this will continue as a way of celebrating all she has done for Botswana and the sporting fraternity.
“If it was my decision, she would be trained as a coach so that she works with and inspires the girl child,” Theetso says.
Women in Sport Botswana (Wasbo) Public Relations Officer (PRO), Thulaganyo Retshabile says Montsho being a flag bearer is very significant considering how far she has come in sport.
“She is a world champion and strong figure, not only for a girl child but for us as a nation. We are happy with opportunities like this being presented to her as she continues to inspire all of us and serve as a role model to the girl child,” she says.
Retshabile says Amantle is a brand ambassador for Botswana and as such, there is a need to go an extra mile in recognising her beyond just being a flagbearer.
“We believe she has been recognised but there is still more that could be done in her name. She deserves a big infrastructure to be named after her, and this we believe has to be done while she can also see and appreciate it,” the Wasbo PRO says.
She says as these Olympics mark Amantle’s last high-profile appearance for Botswana in international competitions, it would be fair for the country and the sporting fraternity to continue utilising her experiences in order to assist upcoming athletes.
“She can take our sport, especially Athletics further with her knowledge and skills. She has to be involved in grooming talent nationwide and producing other Amantles. She can provide vital information to the administrators on grooming talent in sport. She has to be made part of the decision makers in sport,” Retshabile says.