Almost a year ago, on April 23rd, Botswana’s 4X400m managed to make the finals of the World Relays in Bahamas, with the men winning silver and women finishing 6th.
All that was undone at the London 2017 World Championships in August that same year as both bowed out in the heats.
Now, the local athletes will have one chance to make amends this coming Friday at the ongoing Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. Will they or will they not?
“For me, our men stand a very good chance of bringing home a medal, as long as they stay fit. The women on the other hand can make the final but have little medal prospects,” Jwaneng Athletics Club coach Chilume Ntshwarang opined.
According to Ntshwarang, considering that the USA is not at the games and other teams have left some of their best athletes at home, the men’s team will have all the chance to claim a medal.
“If Thebe and Nijel Amos can make it out of their individual races unscathed, we will have a great chance. Both will have to be managed well to ensure they are ready for the relays,” said Ntshwarang.
Ntshwarang said the best approach for Botswana will be to rest both Thebe and Amos for the finals and use Onkabetse Nkobolo and Leaname Maotoanong alongside Makwala and Sibanda in the heats.
“Makwala is fit enough and considering he will have had two or three days of rest before the 4X400m relay heats, he will be good to go. As for Sibanda, he is out already and he will have had enough rest, so he will be ready,” he said.
Concerning the ladies relay, Ntshwarang said while he is optimistic they can make the finals, they have slim prospects of winning a medal.
“If you look at the entry list, they will have to contend with the same teams that have been giving them a hard time, save for the USA. They will have to beat Jamaica, Great Britain, Nigeria and Australia if they are to win, very difficult but not impossible,” opined Ntshwarang.
In the absence of the suspended Lydia Jele, Ntshwarang said the duo of Galefele Moroko and Christinah Botlogetswe will have to step up to help Amantle Montsho.
“If the two improve their current times, we will have a great chance,” he concluded.
For his part, Athletics analyst Billy Tambula said the country has a chance of getting medals in both the men and women’s relays.
“We stand a fairly good chance of finishing amongst the top 3 looking at our athletes comparing them with other nations. We have Montsho who is almost at her best. She is still taking part in the individual events and it can mean two things; She can end up in a very good shape by having competed in all the three rounds prior the relay heats or get exhausted by the final round since she will only have to rest a day,” Tambula said when talking of the ladies’ relay.
He opined that through more races, the ladies are likely to get better splits with each, thus ensuring a safe passage to the finals.
“I think we will have any easy passage to the finals were we will be challenged more by Nigeria, Jamaica and England. The interesting thing with the relays is that there are no pushovers we have seen athletes performing better in relays, and a team with only 1 top ranked athletes being able to utilise her strength. We also have Goitseone and Loungo who have a lot of experience when it comes to the relays. Relays are always very tactical and mistakes are bound to happen when the stakes are high eliminating even favourites.
Concerning Jele’s absence, Tambula had this to say; “Last year we had Jele, a very strong member in this team, who contributed a lot to the success of the team. I believe her absence will be complimented by this improvement of Moroko, Christine and Montsho. If they execute it well you will realise that the team still remains strong,” he observed.
As for the men’s 4x400m relay, we are the favourites in this one. We have a balanced team in which we can have the best quartet for both rounds without having to risk being eliminated. All the guys doing individual events are in a very good shape,” he said.
“If you look at Sibanda who was eliminated in the Semis it was a tough race for him, he will have enough rest to push for a medals atleast on the relays. Baboloki, so far so good. If it continues like that he might just shake off the injury as the races progress. He looked very uncomfortable in the heats but he was better in semis. Let’s hope he finish Finals injury free. With Makwala he only had to work a bit harder in the semis and he will also have to in the finals then two days rest before the relays. He will be very fresh for both rounds of the relays,” said Tambula.
“If we do nott make any mistakes which can warrant a disqualification, I see us getting gold in this one. I know people do not like it when we talk about the technical aspects of the relays but that is where most rules tend to be broken. Smooth button exchanges and better splits will get us a medal even though we will be challenged by Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and England. We should be able to outclass them,” he continued.
“We have Maotoanong and Nkobolo who are also on form. Nijel will do his finals a bit late to make up the team running the heats but will also be available for the finals. I think we might just have to rest only Baboloki for the finals as a cautious measure looking at his condition. I do not see us having any problem with progressing to the finals,” he concluded.