Local track stars, Amantle Montsho and Isaac Makwala, were the toast of the day for Botswana at the Africa senior track and field championship on Friday in Benin.
The two athletes won gold apiece in the ladies’ and men’s 400-meter races, respectively. The wins by the two athletes are expected to boost the country’s athletes as they seek to qualify for the London Summer Olympics, which are due to start in twenty-six days’ time.
Makwala’s win in particular will come as a relief for the athlete as he was likely to lose out on the showpiece despite having qualified on a B standard. On Friday, Makwala ran the race of his life to win the men’s 400-meter race in 45:25 seconds.
The win means the athlete has now qualified for the Olympics on an A standard time while also qualifying him for the World Championships in Russia next year where he is expected to join compatriot Montsho.
For team Botswana, the win now means the country can now also send upcoming 400-meter runner Pako Seribe who has qualified for the Olympics, albeit via the B standard qualification.
Prior to Makwala’s heroics on Friday, both athletes had qualified with B standard, meaning one of them would have lost out on going to the London showpiece as the rules allow only one athlete per category per country to be entered on a B standard qualifying time.
The win will also come as a boost to the country’s 400 x 400 meters relay team, which is seeking to qualify.
In the ladies category, Montsho was at her element best on Friday as she successfully defended her African crown in the women’s race. The reigning women’s 400 meters world champion and African┬á champion continued her tight grip on the African crown, smashing the senior championships’ record in the process.
Montsho clocked a time of 49:54, also setting a new local record in the process.
In other events, Isaac Seoke’s bid to qualify for the Olympics in the 800 meters category hit a snag as he failed to qualify. The youngster came 6th in the men’s 800 meters’ final.
Meanwhile, the country’s budding sprinter, Yatea Kambepera’s woes continued as he could not run his semi final race due to injury. After running well in the heats, the youngster could not make the semi-finals due to injury.
The injury will come as a blow to the youngster as well as the country’s 400 x 100 meters’ men relay team of which he was an important member.
However, the Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) has expressed delight at the performance of local athletes at the championships. Speaking in an interview, the BNOC’s Communications and Marketing Manager, Boniface Mabeo, said the win now means the country will have more representatives at the Olympics.
He said the wins also give hope that the country can increase the number of representatives at the upcoming Olympics.