Two years ago, Onkabetse Nkobolo had the world at his feet, literally!
He was a member of Botswana’s incredible senior men’s national 4X400M relay team preparing for the Tokyo Olympics. He had been a member of this team for some time and had medals to prove it.
All that however changed in the wee hours of March 21, 2020 when the athlete, along with fellow 400m track athlete Baboloki Thebe were involved in a near fatal car accident. The accident left Nkobolo wheelchair bound with little or no hope of returning to track.
An incredible and talented athlete with a smile big enough to light a whole stadium, Nkobolo is more than just a team athlete. He also had an individual career of his own that had garnered him a few medals on the international stage.
Despite all the achievements and his star status, Nkobolo, unlike his fellow athletes seemed not to be trapped by the fame and adoration. He took everything with his usual track like easy stride that had helped him grace the world’s biggest athletics tracks.
While not the most popular of his peers among the general public, his persona, charm, positive energy and no fuss approach to athletics and life in general made him stand out among his peers. It is this positive no fuss approach to life that has put the 28-year-old athlete in good stead as he adjusts to life outside the track.
This past week as he prepared to jet off to India to start his rehabilitation, Nkobolo, though fully aware of the challenges ahead, still radiated a positive energy. Instead of feeling pity for himself, as most of us mere mortals would if we were in his position, he seemed at ease and radiated a positive energy so rarely common among people who have gone through what he has gone through.
Like Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) Vice Chairperson Tebogo Lebotse Sebego mentioned when bidding the athlete farewell, it is hard not to ‘marvel at his bravery and just how a big heart he has.’
“I today wish to celebrate and commend him for the positivity he continues to radiate in what is obviously a really painful situation for him and his family,” Lebotse Sebego said in her farewell speech to Nkobolo.
As one would expect of the man affectionately known as ‘Tolly’ within the local track community, Nkobolo struck a positive note when bidding Batswana farewell. Instead of dwelling much on his own hopes and wishes, he took the moment to thank those who supported him during his lowest moments.
Among those working to support Nkobolo’s road to recovery is the Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA) fund. Aware of Nkobolo’s career as a track athlete, MVA Senior Manager – Case Management Lydia Masilo-Nkhoma said they are working hand in hand with the local sports bodies to help charter Nkobolo’s rehabilitation road.
While many, among them Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) president Phaphane Botlhale expressed a wish to see the athlete grace the track again, in Lebotse Sebego’s words, whatever the future holds, ‘every moment will be a new opportunity and beginning’ for Tolly.