Botswana has sent a strong contingent of 28 athletes to this year’s 21st edition of the Commonwealth Games with the mandate to bring home a country record eight (8) medals.
The athletes were pooled from at least five sporting codes, being Athletics, Boxing, Lawn Bowls, Swimming and Weightlifting.
In this edition of Sunday Standard, we profile Botswana’s Track and Field team at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games and review where Botswana’s eight medals might come from.
As the country’s best performing sporting code, it comes as no surprise that athletics makes half of team Botswana’s athletes at the Games. Unlike never before, this will be Botswana’s best ever track and field team for the games.
100 m and 200m
‘Navigator,’ as Mothibi is affectionately called will be making his debut at the Commonwealth Games when he takes to the track in men’s 100m heats on April 8. The 22 year old Mothibi is the country’s reining national champion in both 100m and 200m.
As Botswana’s sole 100m representative at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, ‘Navigator’ will have his work cut out for him when he takes to the field and will thus be little or no expectation on him to bring home a medal. Mothibi, who will represent Botswana in both 100m and 200m has a personal best (PB) of 10.16 in 100m and 20.4sec in 200m.
For him to win a medal, the local lad will have to cause a real upset by beating some of the most seasoned 100m athletes. Among these will be Yohan Blake (Jamaica), Akani Simbine (South Africa), Adam Gemili (England), Trae Williams and Rohan Browning (both Australian) as well as the likes of Mosito Lehata (Lesotho), just to mention a few. Not an easy task.
Pako Seribe (200m)
Just like Mothibi, who will also be doing the 200m, there will be no burden of expectation on Seribe when he takes to the tracks for the 200m dash at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
After a career so promising, the 28 year old has struggled to fulfil his obvious potential and this year’s games will provide him a platform to try and resuscitate his once promising career.
However, going into the 200m, he and Mothibi will have their work cut out for them if they are to beat their other 73 competitors from various commonwealth countries. Among others, they will face the likes of Anaso Jobodwana and Clarence Munyai (South Africa), Zharnel Hughes (England), Rasheed Dwyer (Jamaica) as well as Lehata (Lesotho) and a host of other star athletes.
Seribe has a personal best of 20.17 sec in 200m and 45.04 in 400m.
Making the final list of Botswana’s short sprints team will be none other than the country’s reigning 100m and 200m champion Loungo Matlhaku.
‘Fruits,’ as the athlete is known in athletics has dominated the local ladies short sprints and has won the 100m and 200m in four consecutive years, from 2014 to 2017.
Matlhaku has also not done so shabbily in the continental competitions, having won silver and bronze medals in the continent.
However, just like her male compatriots, ‘Fruits’ will have her work cut out for her when she takes to the field in the ladies’ 200m race in Gold Coast.
Competing against a strong field of 43 athletes, the local lass will have to beat the likes of Elaine Thompson and Shericka Jackson (Jamaica) and Shaunae Miller-Uibo (Bahamas), just to mention a few.
PB: 23.25 in 200m and 11.56 in 100m
After failing to win a medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Gold Coast 2018 will provide Makwala with an opportunity to finally add this medal to his cabinet. Makwala goes into the Commonwealth as the world leader in 400m for the 2018 season with a time of 45.03secs.
In the absence of fierce competitor Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa, ‘Badman’ will be a favourite to clinch the men’s 400m gold in Gold Coast.
A former Africa champion and a Diamond league winner, Makwala has a personal best of 43.72 secs in 400m and is one of the greats in the discipline.
He will also be expected to anchor Botswana men’s 400X400m relay at the games.
Having burst into the scene at the 2nd Africa Youth Games in 2014, Sibanda has never looked back ever since.
Just 20 years old, Sibanda is now ranked among the best 400m athletes in the world and he will be looking to making a winning debut at the commonwealth.
After missing out on a podium finish at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, where he registered his personal best of 44.25secs and came fifth overall, Sibanda has what it takes to finish in the podium in Gold Coast and he will be a hot medal prospect for Botswana.
Of all Botswana’s 400m athletes, none has been as star crossed as Baboloki Thebe. A fine athlete he is, Thebe’s career has been dodged by injuries which have delayed his progression.
Just as Sibanda, Thebe burst into the scenes as a precocious young talent in the 100m and 200m races, where he looked set to dominate until he switched to 400m.
As a sign of his potential, Thebe qualified for the Rio 2016 Olympics in his first appearance in the men’s 400m. However, injuries prevented the world from seeing this starlet’s talent at the Olympics.
Having just recently been cleared to compete after another injury plagued season, Thebe will be looking to put all this behind him.
Should he stay fir, it will come as no surprise should he win gold in Gold Coast. Thebe is a former African champion, having beat Africa’s best in 2016 to be crowned champion whilst still a 19 year old. He has personal bests of 44.02 secs in 400m, 20.21 secs in 200m and 10.29 secs in 100m.
The Commonwealth Games will bring bittersweet memories for one of Botswana’s finest athletes. After winning gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Montsho was caught on the wrong side of integrity when she tested positive for performance enhancing drugs at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
In the aftermath of such, Montsho was given a two year ban from athletics. A champion she is, the 34 year old then bounced back in style from her ban, qualifying for the World Championships in her first competitive race in February 2017.
Now at the twilight of her career, this will be the last Commonwealth Games for Montsho and she will be looking to go out in a blaze of glory.
Already this year, Montsho has a world lead of 50.66secs in the women’s 400m and will be looking to better the time in Gold Coast. She has a personal best of 49.33secs in 400m.
Gold Coast will be ‘Size 10’s debut at the Commonwealth Games and the biggest size will be looking to leave behind a sizeable footprint when she takes to the tracks in her favourite race.
After a slow start to her career, Botlogetswe has grown in leaps and bounds over the past few years and she will be one to keep an eye on at the Commonwealth Games.
Botlogetswe has a sizeable collection of medals from both local and continental games and she will be looking to add to those medals very soon.
The 23 year old has a personal best of 51.82 in the 400m race, a record which she will be looking to better at the commonwealth games. Though underrated, she is another medal prospect for Botswana.
Once dubbed an heiress to Amantle Montsho’s 400m throne, Galefele Moroko’s career has not yet grown to reach such expected heights.
Now Moroko, who will turn 21 years during the Commonwealth Games, will look to give her career a boost when she takes to the track at Gold Coast.
Having amassed medals as a junior athlete, the Commonwealth Games will provide her with a platform to transit from a promising talent to a well rounded athlete.
Moroko has a personal best of 53.38secs in the 400m.
Botswana’s only Olympic medallist, Amos will be one of the country’s biggest medal prospects at the Gold Coast.
After a career so promising, Amos has also had little luck keeping fit and has been plagued by injuries. However, he has since been given a clean bill of health and he will be looking to resuscitate a career so nearly stagnated by injuries.
In the absence of erstwhile rival David Rudisha, Amos will be looking to use the games as a platform to reintroduce himself to the world. However, with Rudisha’s compatriots, Cornelius Tuwei, Jonathan Kitilit and Wycliffe Kinyamal in the mix, a win will not come so easily for Amos.
However, if he plays his cards right, there is no doubt he will bring home a medal. Amos has a personal best of 1 minute and 41.73secs in 800m which he achieved at the London 2012 Olympics.
Men’s 400X400m Relay
Brimming with talent, this will be the coutry’s hottest medal prospect. Joining the trio of Makwala, Thebe and Sibanda in the team are Onkabetse Nkobolo, Leaname Maotoanong and Nijel Amos. After missing out on a medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics and then failing to make it to the podium at the World relays in 2017, Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games will give this talented group a shot at redemption.
Women’s 400mX400m relay
The relay team surprised many at the World Relays in 2017 when they finished 6th overall. Now they will be hoping to go one step further and win a medal at the Commonwealth Games.
Joining Montsho, Botlogetswe and Moroko in the team will be Loungo Matlhaku and Goitseone Seleka. The team is however shorn of the services of Lydia Jele, who was one of its outstanding athletes at the World Relays.
Completing the athletics team is 24 year old Triple Jumper Goabaone Mosheleketi. A debutant at the Commonwealth Games, there will be absolutely no pressure on Mosheleketi to bring home a medal.
Precisely speaking, Mosheleketi will go into the competition as the underdog’s underdog. Bar one or two athletes, of the 20 entries in the Tripple Jump at Gold Coast, the local lad has the lowest personal best in triple jump.
Mosheleketi has a personal best of 16.12 meters (wind assist +3.6) which he recorded at Gulf Shores, USA in May 2017.
Botswana will get a medal or two from the men’s individual 400m (with one gold), a medal from the men’s 400X400m relay (possibly gold) and one or two medals from the ladies individual 400m race.
While it remains to be seen how Jele’s absence will affect the women relay team’s performance, the local girls stand a better chance of bringing home a medal. The other medal is likely to come from the men’s 800m courtesy of one Nijel Amos.
All in all, athletics is likely to bring home six of the country’s eight targeted medals, leaving the other four codes, more especially boxing to bring home the remaining two medals.