Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Botswana’s second Olympic medal odyssey begins

After a faltering start in its quest for silverware at the ongoing Olympics, Botswana will be hoping for better when the track events get underway.

The country’s medal quest took a hit this past 4 days as swimmer James Freeman and boxers Keamogetse Sadie Kenosi and Mahommed Rajab Otukile were knocked out on three consecutive days in the heat stages.

The country will now look to the tried and tested Nijel Amos, Isaac Makwala and to some extent Amantle Victor-Nkape nee Montsho, to resuscitate it floundering medal hopes.

Since admission into the Olympics some 41 years ago, the country has won only one (1) medal. The country’s maiden Olympic medal, and still the country’s only medal, is a silver won by the then fresh faced 18-year-old Nijel Amos in the men’s 800m race at the London Olympics in 2012.

Despite sending a very talented and highly promising team to the Rio Olympics four years later in 2016 with a view to adding to its overall Olympic medal tally, Botswana came home empty handed.

Though shorn off the talent of torchbearer Amantle at the time due to a doping ban, Botswana however still had the likes of Amos, Makwala and the then youthful Baboloki Thebe and Karabo Sibanda, just to name but a few, to the Rio Olympics.

Of the lot, only Sibanda made the finals as Thebe’s competition was cut short by injury after qualifying for the men’s 400m semifinals. 

On the other hand, Makwala, who made it past the heat stage faltered in the semi-finals while Amos, who had a spate of injuries to deal with following his 2012 Olympics heroics, crashed out in the men’s 800m heats.

The injuries to Amos and Thebe, the latter being team Botswana’s best performing athlete heading into the games, were to prove very costly. Shorn of the duo’s talents in the men’s 4X400m relays where Botswana had made the finals, Botswana came agonisingly close of a medal as they finished fifth (5th) in the overall standings.

Now as they head into this year’s summer Olympics, Botswana will be seeking to banish the ghosts of Rio, though the threat of injuries still lingers on.

Heading to this year’s Olympics, Makwala, who is making his final Olympics appearance, looks to be hitting his peak, and if he does at Tokyo and gets close to his personal best time, a medal will be very likely.

At the other end of the spectrum, Amos is also hitting a good form and he for now looks to be Botswana’s brightest medal prospect.

The duo of Makwala and Amos, along with Thebe, who is still trying to find his form, will also be crucial to Botswana’s medal prospects in the men’s 4X400m relay.

In women athletics, all eyes will be on Amantle to lead the duo of fellow 400m women athletes, Christine Botlogetswe and Galefhele Moroko in a medal charge. 

Of the trio, the 38 year old Amantle, who is making her last appearance in the grandest stage, looks to have a better chance of a medal as Botlogetswe and Moroko are battling injuries and poor form.

Elsewhere, after missing out at the Rio Olympics four years ago, Botswana boxing was hoping for better as it once again featured at this year’s Tokyo summer games courtesy of debutants Kenosi and Otukile.

However, both boxers, products of the country’s youth development system, failed to make it past the first bouts. Both lost by 5 – 0 unanimous decisions. 

Botswana swimming, for a third Olympics running, was also represented at this year’s games but flagbearer and Olympic debutant James Freeman failed to make it out of the heats.

At the time of going to print on Monday, Batswana were now eyeing the country’s weightlifting prodigy Magdeline Moyengwa to see if she can be an alternative to track athletes in the country’s medal quest. 

Already having made history as the country’s first weight lifter, both male and female, to qualify for the Olympics, the 20-year-old was seeking to enhance her reputation as one to watch for the future ala Nijel Amos at the 2012 London Olympics.

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