Wednesday, July 28, 2021

I salute Amantle Montsho

Mademoiselle Amantle Montsho continues to make our nation proud. Just a few days back, Miss Montsho won her third consecutive event of the 2011 IAAF Samsung Diamond League, yet again keeping her hitherto nemesis, Ms. Sanya Richards-Ross, at bay. She did that in style at the Olympic Capital, Lausanne, Switzerland, clocking an impressive 50.23s.

Miss Montsho’s conquest is a feat never before achieved by any Motswana in athletics, and hence she is busy authoring a new history for Botswana sport.

These latest achievements are adding to her other firsts, and indeed firsts for the country, those of a gold medal and a Games record at the XIX Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India in 2010.

Coincidentally, on the day Amantle won her third Golden League medal, I was in Dakar, Senegal, on a courtesy visit to the authorities at the High Performance Centre she has been based at for the last five years. I was flying back from Togo, where I had attended an Extra Ordinary General Assembly of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA), via Dakar, and had determined that it would not make sense for me to just pass by without seizing the opportunity to see where our star athlete stays and trains, and meeting with the authorities there.

If I said the respect Amantle commands at the Centre is next to royalty, you would perhaps think I am overstating it, but believe me, that would be my conviction.

At the mention of her name, fellow athletes, administrators, kitchen hands, coaches and authorities alike light up, and words and phrases like angel, true professional, unassuming, humble, beautiful soul, disciplined etc crop up. Of course Senegal is a francophone country and many people there do not speak a lot of English, hence the words may not have all been said exactly like that, but deduced in some instances. But all in all, I can assure you that Amantle is both loved and revered in Senegal.

Indeed Amantle remains humble despite all the success. She is not demanding the five star treatment that her contemporaries, some less talented and/or successful would perhaps demand after one or two victories. Success has certainly not gone to her head, and with such a cool head, I can only see bigger and greater things happening for her. I would in fact sum up the best words to describe her into three: The Quintessential Professional.

I salute you Miss Montsho, and urge you to remain both focused and disciplined, living by our value of Botho, and to continue to give your all in your quest to conquer the world of athletics.

A few years ago I was amongst the few that believed you made a mistake by not seizing an opportunity that was presented to you to move from Senegal to the USA; now I have had a change of heart. With the benefit of hindsight, I am convinced your choice was right, for many reasons.

Firstly, whereas the culture in Senegal is not necessarily the same as ours, it would be closer to ours than that of the USA, hence your adjustment would have been a lot easier.

Secondly, in Senegal you are amongst a few stars, but in America you would have been amongst many more; therefore, one would wonder if the coaches there would have given you the same kind of attention that you get in Senegal. For now, the Centre prides itself in your success, for that builds a reputation for them, as it does for your coaches. Africa has not won any significant number of medals at Games of the Olympiad, and the Centre would surely want to work hard towards contributing to their own medals and by extension those of the continent.

Thirdly, as Senegal is a French speaking country, you were forced to learn the French language, and I was happy to learn that you are quite fluent in that. Who knows what use that could be for you in future? I know this could be dismissed as a simple argument and be countered by that America would perhaps have provided you with ample opportunities to study. While that is true, how many of us seize such opportunities? Look at us in Botswana, with so many opportunities to study on a part-time basis, but how many of us actually do it? The good thing is that for your French, the circumstances compelled you.

Lastly, you are the sacrificial lamb that is proving that it can be done in Africa by Africans.
In conclusion, I would like to urge you to continue to keep your cool, to keep that spirited determination and drive. I am proud to have been your Chef de Mission in Delhi last year; the BNOC is surely vindicated in their choice of IOC scholarship recipient in 2006. The Ministry of Youth, Sport & Culture, the BNSC, the BAA, your coaches at the various level, your former teachers and school colleagues, and indeed the whole nation salutes you.

In fact, I bump into some of the Frank Fredericks, the Amadou Dia Bas, the Paul Tergats and the Kipchoge Keinos of this world quite frequently and they all speak very highly of you, so I can easily conclude that the whole of Africa is both proud and fond of you.

We will pray for you that your star continues to shine even brighter, that you continue to fly our flag high, and bring pride and unity to us in the process. You are indeed the epitome of our Botswana Vision 2016.

Don’t let us put too much pressure on you. You should first and foremost enjoy your sport and do rest assured that whatever performance, we will accept, provided we will be convinced you would have done your best. But then again, do remember you don’t owe us anything, but only yourself.
Longue vie Mademoiselle Montsho, la nation vous aime. You are a sporting ambassador par excellence for Botswana!

Tuelo Serufho
Chief Executive Officer
Botswana National Olympic Committee

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