Batswana and the athletics world were left reeling in shock as Botswana’s 800m track star Nijel Amos fizzled out and became the first big hopeful to stumble out of the heats of the Rio 2016 Olympics track events.
The athlete was the major upset on day seven of the ongoing Games. Amos, who was the country’s major athlete whom Batswana had pinned their hopes on, failed dismally to make it out of the heats stage in what was a bad day at the office for Botswana athletes at this year’s Games. In what was a major shock for Botswana, the Marobela-born athlete finished seventh in the heats, capping what has been a lousy year for him.
Taking to the tracks after fellow 800m track athlete Boitumelo Masilo had also bowed out of the Olympics, much was expected from Amos. However, the athlete, who has struggled with niggling injuries this year, could not find his rhythm as he failed to impose himself on a race many expected him to win. While many hoped he would put up a strong finish going into the home stretch as is the norm, it was not to be for the 22-year-old as he could not find his rhythm, resulting with him dropping from position three on the home run to finish on seventh place.
Speaking in a post-race interview, the athlete acknowledged that his struggles with injury had disrupted his season and preparations for the Olympics. However, he graciously accepted defeat, adding that he would now be looking forward to putting this season behind him.
“It was not easy for me to survive considering what I have gone through this season, so I will accept my result. If my career was meant for me to win gold at the Olympics, I will definitely win,” the athlete explained.
“I am shocked by Nijel’s exit, it was so unexpected,” Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) Secretary General Legojane Kebaitse reacted. According to the official, the early fall of the star athlete comes as a disappointment as he was the leader of a relatively young Botswana team to the Olympics. “I sympathise with Nijel because he was a pillar of strength for the country’s young and upcoming athletes. They looked up to him and he encouraged and advised them,” Kebaitse explained.
He, however, being aware of the athlete’s injuries this season, he is not so hugely disappointed. “He is a strong character and he will definitely bounce back,” Kebaitse concluded.
“I did not anticipate for such to happen. I did not expect him to exit the competition so early. I am still in shock,” sports administrator Ipolokeng Ramatshaba commented.
According to Ramatshaba, from what he has seen of the race, it was very obvious that Nijel was struggling throughout. While he is also of the same sentiments that the athlete’s exit will adversely affect the morale of his young compatriots, in the same vein Ramatshaba is, however, of the opinion that his failure to qualify is also likely to motivate them to work even harder.
Meanwhile, Botswana swimming sensation Naomi Ruele also failed to make it into the semi-finals of the women’s 50 metres freestyle. Despite coming second in heat six, the swimmer could not advance to the semi-finals as she came 47th overall and missed making the cut as only those who clocked the best sixteen times advanced to the next round.