World Athletics (WA) Head of Media Operations Zacharias Vailakis says he was impressed by spectators at the inaugural FNB Botswana Golden Grand Prix.
Vailakis says the turnout and support was astonishing. He says the cheers and singing by spectators will forever remain with him. “The crowd came in numbers and from their behaviour they were lively and very responsive to everything that was happening which I hardly see across the world,” said Vailakis.
Spectators sang and cheered for all the athletes, something which made the atmosphere lively. “I was impressed with how well they knew international athletes not only the ones in Africa. They showed love and support to every athlete not only their countrymen,” he notes.
He says ‘the support in Africa outshines any other he has witnessed,’ something he attributes to ‘their charismatic behaviour generally.’ Vailakis says ‘the meet was great and he is taking with him the splendid support of Botswana.’
The same was not lost to Botswana’s 100m record holder Letsile Tebogo. “I am happier with the turnout of Batswana. It shows that they love sport and they are supportive,” he says.
A loud cheer was reserved for the teenage sprinting sensation as he closed the event on a high for Batswana with a win in the 200m men’s race. School-boy clocked 19.87s in the race, shaving a few milliseconds of his previous personal best of 19.96.
An hour earlier, Tebogo had come second behind Kenya’s Ferdinand Omanyala in the men’s 100m race. He clocked a wind assisted 9.91s in the race while Omanyala finished clear ahead in 9.78s. Third position went to USA’s Kenneth Bednarek who clocked 10.02s.
The 200m win was one of mind over matter for Tebogo who says he had ‘pleaded with his coach to drop the 200m race as his body was not responsive.’ “I am happy with both my performances. For the 200m race, I felt under pressure to do my best. My body was however not responding but I felt I had to push forward and eventually I won,” he says.
Neck in neck with Canada’s Aaron Brown at the curve, the teenager had to summon his mental will to finish the race. One last kick in the last 50 meters of the race proved enough for him to win the race and run a personal best in the process. Tebogo says running a sub 20 time ‘came as a surprise as he was expecting a time of 19.90s.’ Brown finished second in 20.00s with Liberia’s Joseph Fahnbulleh coming third in 20.14s.
Elsewhere, Botswana’s Leungo Scotch ran a new personal best of 44.92s to clinch third position behind Zambia’s Samukonga Muzala and Grenada’s Kirani James in the men’s 400m race. Muzala clocked a new personal best of 43.91s to win the race while Olympic gold medalist James came second in 44.76s.
In the women’s races, USA’s Twanisha Terry slightly edged the 100m race, dipping to a 11.05s time ahead of Egypt’s Bassant Hemida (11.09s) and another USA sprinter Kiara Parker (11.16s).
USA’s Kayla White clocked 22.38s to win the ladies’ 200m race. She finished ahead of pre-race favourite Sha’Carri Richardson (22.54s) and Hemida in third place with a time of 22.75s.