When Isaac Makwala went to the IAAF World Championships in London a few weeks ago, he could not have envisaged how tortuous his race to the finals would be!
Caught up in a worldwide media furore over the past two days due to some ‘purported’ norovirus illness, saying it has been a whirlwind two days for the Botswana sprinter seems an understatement.
In what has now been a narrative of this year’s championships, Makwala, who was seen as a major competitor for South African sprinter Wayde van Niekerk in both the 200m and 400m, was controversially barred from both races by the IAAF medical team on Monday afternoon.
While fighting for his hard-earned right to compete, here in Botswana, the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development Thapelo Olopeng, as with the whole country was spitting fire over the ‘unfair treatment of Makwala’.
Though sidestepping a loaded question as to whether he believed some back-handed techniques were used to disqualify Makwala, there was no question that Olopeng believed something was amiss.
“We want things to run smoothly so that we can get to the bottom of this. If they dare refuse to give us the evidence we need. We will investigate and not just let this be. We wrote them a letter demanding that Makwala should compete, we need answers as to why he didn’t,” answered Olopeng.
“They were supposed to do an examination; they know how well our athlete was doing. They should have realised that this guy is highly competitive. We will not just accept a bland decision like that. I can sense that their reputation is at stake with the people of Botswana,” Olopeng said.
A few hours later, and 48 hours after he was barred, Makwala was given a reprieve and allowed back in the track. ‘Angry and heartbroken,’ Makwala beat both the rain-soaked London track, not once, but twice in a space of two hours as he easily coasted to the finals, which will be held at 2250hrs, local time.
Having always maintained, against the IAAF insistence to the contrary, that he was not sick, when the IAAF finally gave him a chance to do a solo time trial and qualify for the semis, the local boy did it with ease, even managing to do his now almost forgotten five push-ups celebration as if to give the IAAF medical team a proverbial middle finger salute.
As if the time trial was not enough, Makwala was once again drawn into the dreadful water soaked first lane for his semifinal race. Once again, he ran a great time to qualify outright into the finals.
Point proven, Makwala fit and ready to take on the world!