When Botswana men’s 400mx400m relay team competed at the Rio Olympics last year, it was a case of ‘so far yet so near’ as they just lost out on a podium finish.
Having then lost an inform Baboloki Thebe to injury and Nijel Amos struggling with fitness issues after an injury plagued season, the local boys come unstuck in the relay finals.
After holding on to second position for much of the relay race at the Olympics, the local boys got fizzled out in the final lap and finished fifth.
But that was then, a year ago. Since then, the boys have regrouped and if their heroics at the World Relays early this year are anything to go by, then Batswana can expect a podium finish.
While Karabo Sibanda seems to be struggling with fitness issues following an injury layoff, with the likes of an inform Isaac Makwala and Onkabetse Nkobolo all in the team, Botswana is in a good position to finish among the top three.
According to coach Chilume Ntshwareng of Jwaneng Athletics Club (JAC), unlike when the local boys were at Rio a year ago, this time around they are ready and can deliver.
The JAC coach’s confidence, he says, stems from the local boys’ performances during the 400m races at the ongoing championships.
Ntshwarang indicated that the boys are in good shape for the relay race, adding that while they thought they would bring a gold medal at Rio, they were not in good shape like they are now.
“This time around the gold medal is in our hands, no doubt about it. The boys are fit and ready to bring it home,” said Ntshwarang.
With Makwala competing in the 200m where he is also expected to make the finals, Ntshwarang said that the selection of the qualifying race to the final could be Amos, Thebe, Nkobolo and Sibanda, with Makwala being spared to compete in the 200m individual race final on Friday.
Ntshwarang said if the team makes the final, Makwala will then take part in the final relay race and give Sibanda rest as he is not that fit.
For his part, another coach, Thatayaone Lefatshe, concurred that the team is more than ready for the race.
Just as Ntshwarang, Lefatshe is of the view that given the local boys’ performances in the heats as well as prior to the World Championships, there can be no doubt the local lads have what it takes to win.
While saying Makwala and Thebe will be the driving force for the team, Lefatshe however said given the overall performances of all the members of the team, they can depend on each other.
“Makwala is on tremendous form as he has shown in the diamond league and now the World Championships and I have confidence that he will carry the boys,” Lefatshe said.
He furthermore said the performance they are displaying in London is phenomenal and the strength they have is mighty and that he believes in them.