It was a case of d├®j├á vu as Botswana’s 200m and 400m track star Isaac Makwala was overlooked for the Sportsman of the Year award at the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) award.
After causing a stir last year when he ranted at the BNSC after being left out of nominations despite a stellar season, the athlete will now rightfully feel a sense of injustice at what happened at this year’s awards.
Though making the nominations list this year, the athlete did not get the award despite many having identified him as a rightful claimant to the accolade.
In a move likely to be interpreted as a defeat of the BNSC’s maxim of fair play, Makwala was pipped to the coveted award by Botswana boxing team captain Zibani Chikanda.
Given a stellar performance that saw Makwala being nominated for this year’s awards, for a while it seemed like a Cinderella moment for the athlete.
In what was an eventful year, Makwala, who won gold and silver medals in the individual 400m and in the 400mX400m relays at the 2015 Africa Games, setting the track alight with some of the most breathtaking performances, none so more poignant as on the 5th of July at the Resisprint meeting in the Swiss city of La Chaux-de-Fonds.
Coming into the track a day after South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk had broken his African record, Makwala would go on to run the fastest 400m time in the world since 2007, becoming the first non American sprinter to make the top five best sprinters of all time, an achievement which had however been surpassed by van Niekerk.
“This is very disappointing. When you compare Makwala with the eventual winner, pound for pound, Makwala has achieved more. Makwala won gold and silver in Africa, the winner got bronze. Makwala qualified for the Rio Olympics but the winner failed to qualify for the Rio Olympics,” sports administrator Legojane Kebaitse quipped.
“This is likely to discourage athletes who do their best to represent the country with pride. It will be better not to have these kind of awards at all rather than have unfair awards which only demoralise and kill the spirit of athletes,” Kebaitse added.
The overlooking of Makwala also surprised other sports administrators who said that based on each athlete’s profile, Makwala seemed a fair bet to walk away with the most coveted prize. “When the name of Chikanda was called, I looked at the coach next to me in shock and asked if it was not a mistake. We had not given Makwala’s competitors any chance of walking away with the prize,” said the administrator, who talked on condition of anonymity. On how the athlete could have missed out on the award, some, including athletes, believe Makwala’s outspokenness might have played a role. Not one to keep his thoughts to himself, the athlete has had long running sparring matches with the BNSC, more so in the last year when he was omitted from the 2015 BNSC award nominations list. While Makwala is by no means a personality role model much less a saint, administrators and athletes alike believe his performance on the track was way better than his fellow nominees.