The University of Botswana Athletics Club and Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) will tonight host the second edition of night series. The event will see athletes from track and field events turn out in numbers as they chase qualification for the Olympics.
With each athlete allowed to participate in a maximum of two events under the floodlights at the National stadium tonight, expectations are that athletes will give full measures in the night series and possibly find themselves among those who will compete against the best in Tokyo.
BAA Vice President Technical Theetso says the Friday Night Series will give local athletes an opportunity to beat time and book their places at the world stage; he noted that they expect any athletes to grace the event. “As you can see, we have catered for all the categories of track and field, we will have two road races this weekend as well since we do not want any of our athletes to be left behind, this is one of the few last hurdles so we expect our athletes to take their chances.
”Further, he said since it’s the Olympics year, expectations are that there will be a massive turn up since athletes want to qualify for Olympic Games.“Some of our athletes are on camp and we expect them to give us a great performance.”Already three athletes have qualified, namely Nijel Amos, Christine Botlogetswe and Galefele Moroko; therefore, Isaac Makwala, Baboloki Thebe and Leungo Scotch will have their sweat glands secreting more sweat with qualification dangling over their heads. Hopes also lie on the two 4 by 400 metres relay teams that they qualify to increase chances of a medal.
In a recent interview, 400m sensation Onkabetse Nkoboto said he was ready to burn the track and will target running under 4 seconds to qualify for the games. He further said the men’s relay team is ready to strive for qualification having recently welcomed back to track Baboloki Thebe and Isaac Makwala.
“I have been busy since last year, striving to qualify for the Olympics and what’s left is to get the time right. The confidence of the entire team is good, we are confident that we can also qualify as the relay team.” Other events include the Sunday’s second edition of the Annual Cross Country Series hosted by Lefika Athletics Club at Kopong, then another one will be held by Maun Athletics Club in Maun still on Sunday.
Local 400m runner Isaac Makwala may not have been born great. However, greatness was definitely thrust upon him during the recent IAAF World championships in London, UK.
The Tutume-born taciturn sprinter may not have brought home a medal from London but he has won the hearts of over a billion track and field enthusiasts around the world.
The story of Makwala has now become legendary. The runner found himself in the eye of a raging controversy after he was denied the opportunity to compete in the 400m finals at the London Championships due to suspicions that he had contracted the norovirus. Being denied entry into the stadium turned the attention of the world to both Makwala and his native country, Botswana. The unpopular decision by the IAAF led to an incredible and emotional 200m solo run in the wet track that saw the 30 year old qualify for the 200m semi finals, another race he was denied in the preliminary stages of the event.
Nevertheless a lot of people do not really know the soft-spoken runner who easily blends into the crowd. Botswana Guardian recently visited the man who knows Makwala best, being his elderly father, Wonderful Makwala at his Tutume residence almost a 100km away from Francistown.
The elderly Makwala, a traditional Kalanga farmer, has been blown away and amazed by his own son before he went on to conquer the world at the age of 30. Makwala senior first noticed his son’s gift of running when he was in the early years of primary school. “I would often be called to come and witness my son leaving behind grown men in races before he was even a teenager. Nonetheless, I never approved of this, as I wanted him to focus on his academics at Mpane primary school,” Makwala said. As a grown man and world-class runner, Makwala often left his father in awe due to his physical abilities. By the year 2006 Makwala was already making money from his numerous running assignments and investing most of it in cattle farming. “One day my son arrived from a competition in South Africa. When he got to the cattle-post he told me he liked one of my bulls and wanted to buy it. I confronted him over the matter asking him whether he had enough money because I was charging P5000 for the bull, as I admired the beast myself.” After making the offer, the elderly Makwala said he saw his son cleaning himself up and what would follow the brief negotiations over the bull left the elderly man speechless. “He immediately set off from the cattle-post to cash the money from Sowa town. That is 52 km from my cattle post near the Makgadikgadi and he ran the distance in one day.” Isaac, who rears cattle alongside his father, is now a cattle farmer and spends most of his time at the cattle-post when he is not competing around the world. Makwala’s heart-wrenching experiences at the London World Championships brought pain and sadness to his family. “I was sad when I saw how badly he was being treated on TV. His mother and I turned to prayer. That experience brought sadness in both Bokalaka and Mmangwato. The president even came to my house and discussed the matter”.
Nonetheless, the elderly Makwala said sadness in the family did not last long as he was soon shouting at the top of his voice when Makwala went on his historic time attack in a bid to qualify for the 200m finals. “I was screaming ‘Gondolo’ that’s the nickname I gave him which means young bull”. Wonderful Makwala said his son has brought both pride and prestige to the family name after President Ian Khama recently announced that a stadium facility planned for Tutume village, will be named after the runner. Makwala’s older brother Isaiah Makwala is equally proud of his sibling’s achievements. “He is the last born in the family from my father’s second wife. He grew up right before my eyes, we were never separated for long periods,” he said, adding that Isaac was always enthusiastic about sports. “However football was closer to his heart when he was at Pandagala Secondary School. He also played as a defender for a local team called Gulana. During that time we could see that he could run but we did not think he would reach these heights.” However, Makwala was sort of a late bloomer as he only discovered his true destiny and calling after attending a one-year carpentry course at Nswazwi brigade.
“After attending Nswazwi brigade he got into proper athletic structure and competed nationally. I remember one of his international running call ups was in Singapore.”Isaiah Makwala described his sibling as an enthusiastic farmer who continues to buy cattle with the handsome proceeds he makes from competing in the world stage.
“He spends most of his time in Tutume and supports a local team called Magapatona United. When Isaac competes the whole village is often buzzing with the hype. ”
Makwala’s elder brother described the painful experience of having watched his younger brother being denied access into the stadium where he was due to face South African archrival Wayde Van Niekerk and others in the 400m final.
“I was attending a funeral when I heard something was wrong in London. During that time I was communicating with him through social media and he told me he was fit to run. This experience clearly affected his confidence”.
Makwala said it was sad that his brother was treated this way, as his running career will soon end due to his age. Meanwhile, if there is a single unsung hero in the Isaac Makwala success story it will definitely be Zibane Molopo, a lecturer and coach at Nswazwi brigade. Molopo first met Makwala around 2005 when he started working at the brigade. Molopo said when he met the athlete he was already engaged in track and field activities and about to complete his studies at the school. “I got engaged in sports activities and realised that Makwala had power”. Molopo, who was not formally trained as a coach said he did research on the Internet and contacted athletics clubs around the country. “I took Makwala through basic training in 200 and 400m. For 400m he ran 600m and for 200m I made him run 300m”. Molopo said the brigade did not have proper training facilities but Makwala was both energetic and dedicated and would wake up to train at 4am. Molopo said he took the young Makwala through tough training processes including running in the sand or through the rain. “I also joined him in long distance running including a 12 km stretch where I often got a lift and he caught up with me later on”. According to Molopo, Makwala has always been a disciplined athlete who could easily record 45 seconds in local 400m races. Makwala joined the national team between the ages of 18 and 20 and later went on to compete in places like South Africa and Seychelles. “Back in the day I helped the up and coming athlete to acquire a passport to compete outside the country”. Molopo who also coaches volleyball, said Makwala soon acquired a life-changing scholarship and joined the likes of Amantle Montsho in Dakar, Senegal. “We still retain a good relationship today. He often lets me know when he is going to compete”. Makwala was discovered from the same area as fellow international athletes, Glody Dube and Nijel Amos.
Quizzed on what makes this part of the country stand out in producing quality athletes, Molopo said the school system in the area encourages athletes to do extracurricular activities including sports. Molopo said it is unheard of for school-going children not to participate in sport activities in the Tutume area. Makwala surprised the nation and the world on July 14th 2017 during the Barcelona Diamond League when he became the first man in history to run a 200m within 20 seconds and a 400m within 44 seconds on the same day. He recorded 43.92 seconds in the 400m.
The President of Botswana Lieutenant General Dr Ian Khama said the IAAF should have given Isaac Makwala the opportunity to run another solo time trial for the 400m final. Khama, who is both passiionate and enthusiastic about sports, said Makwala should have received if his time qualifies him to in the envisaged 400m time trial.
Many around the world felt was unfairly denied an opportunity to win a medal in the 400 m finals. Speaking to BG Sports in an exclusive interview this week, Khama said the IAAF should have allowed Makwala to compete on his own and if his time is better or equalled whoever came first, he should have been awarded a gold medal. “I am not saying take away from the person who did win, but he should have been given his medal. Similarly the same should have been done if his time equalled or better than those who won any medals,” Khama said.
The president argued that there have been situations where athletes record a similar time and the tie resulted in both competitors being awarded the same medals. “IAAF should have followed the same example and allowed him to match the times in those categories.”
However, Khama said his government cannot pursue that matter further as they are not allowed to interfere with the decisions and or sports administration matters. The president praised Makwala for doing extremely well despite all the challenges that he faced. The enthusiastic Khama pointed out that he was speaking as both the number one citizen and a citizen of Botswana. “To put it mildly I was suspicious, I could not understand when, I heard he (Makwala) was unwell and that he was supposed to be on quarantine but I actually saw it on television when he was being prevented from entering the stadium. He was confronted by about 3 or 4 officials and I thought to myself, but if you are worried about someone spreading some virus, you would not want them to mix with anybody, not just athletes , but the more people you come into contact with, the more you are going to spread the virus.” Khama said in such a case one would have expected that if Makwala had anything contagious he would have been confined to a medical centre and a medical ward or bed and limit the contact with anybody but that was not the case. “He said he was feeling well enough to participate in that particular event and he was prevented from doing so.
I think it was an extremely unfortunate decision. I used the word suspicious, but you know the IAAF is a credible organisation, so one would not want to suggest that there was something underhand.” The president said the matter was both badly and incompetently handled and proof of this is when they then allowed Makwala to qualify for the 200 metres running on his own, which was something quite rare. “The fact that they said you can go and qualify , but you will have to do it on your own is an indication to me that clearly they were wrong. If they were right, they would have said to him that sorry your opportunity to qualify is over. So they had him there running on his own allowing him to qualify which I think is the proof.”
Khama said Makwala did extremely well because the others earlier ran when the track was dry, adding that it was not raining when Makwala’s rivals were competing amongst themselves, which motivated them to obviously do better times. “ To run on his own on a wet track when it was raining Makwala did well to eventually qualify under those conditions
Khama conceded that Makwala did not win the 200 metre finals there are usually extenal factors at play.
“I think when you perform be it an athlete or any line of work that you do, there are always factors which can affect your performance day to day, it could be anything, and I think what had happened to him probably affected his performance in the finals, especially when you know the 200 metres is not his favourite race, but rather 400 metres.” Khama is of the opinion that should the IAAF have done the same for the 400m even though they had already ran the finals.
The question that remains regarding the matter is whether the matter is over as far as government is concerned or will it the prusued further. Khama’s response was that when it comes to sports administration, government does not interfere. “The best example is with football and FIFA. Governments are not supposed to or are not able to intervene.The best thing you can do and I know the minister was briefing me was that he and the team of officials we had in London were consistently mounting pressure on the IAAF to appeal and make representation on Makwala’s behalf and at the end of the day there is nothing that the government can do as we have no influence over the IAAF.”
“I think the matter was badly handled and he has been denied an opportunity to excel. As an athlete you are limited by your youth, when you lose an opportunity it’s a disadvantage as he is 30 years old. His career is pretty much coming to an end, but we will support him for as long as he represents this country.” Khama said it is unfortunate that someone from the country had an opportunity to win a medal and that opportunity was taken away from him. “We do not know If he will have another opportunity again, and that is the very sad thing . Those people should know better, the head of IAAF was an athlete himself so he knows what it means for him to be able to participate.”
Quizzed on whether he was serious about building a sports facility in Tutume and naming it after Makwala, Khama said government was intending to do so. Khama said building stadiums around the country came at great costs. “The programme was derailed by budgetary constraints and recessions and so on. Yet we have recognised that we must try as best as possible to provide facilities for our sports people.” What we have basically decided is that we want to put up stadiums, we do not have to build the Gaborone type of stadium everywhere in the country.
“We can put up sports complex or mini stadium enough to take care of athletics, football, volleyball, softball etc, and seating stands for spectators, that we should attempt to do and we have agreed to do that for each constituency.” We were going to start off with 20 areas. “What I had said in Tutume is that the village will be included in the first batch. Whatever we put in Tutume will be made after Makwala in recognition of his courage and determination in the face of the great challenges he came across. I am fully aware that all our athletes are determined and courageous people, but if you think of what he went through and how he qualified for the finals under those circumstances.”
Botswana’s 400m icon Isaac Makwala this week made his way into IAAF World Championship folklore following a controversial disqualification from the 400m race final on Tuesday night in London, UK. However on Wednesday night the local athlete shocked the world when he managed to qualify for both the 200m semi final and final race within two hours. This week Makwala was one of the most talked about people in the world after taking part in a solo race at the ongoing World championships. The intriguing run saw Makwala qualify for the 200m semi final just hours before the final race qualifier where he came second to Isaiah Young of the USA. The local athlete became the subject of a major controversy when he was denied entry into the stadium facility where he was due to compete for the 400m final against South African rival Wayde Van Niekerk and his compatriot Baboloki Thebe. Makwala was denied access into the stadium after allegations that he was one of the 30 athletes who were affected by the norovirus following an outbreak at a hotel where some of the athletes are staying. However, the runner insisted that he was never tested for the virus by IAAF doctors. The following day the issue had become an international uproar and quickly knives were drawn for the IAAF top brass who were swift to act on the matter. A solo race was ordered in which Makwala ran against the clock to beat the 20.53 sec required to qualify for the 200m semi final.
And what a qualifying spectacle it was. The whole stadium in London fell silent when a steely eyed Makwala, clad in national flag colours and green spikes seemed to race against the IAAF mobile camera on the rail to record an impressive 20:20 sec. After his solo flight the muscle bound sprinter was quick to display his fitness level to the masses when he exhibited a few push ups for good measure. The time Makwala set was not level with his 19.77 sec personal best in 200m but it was enough to see the 30 year old redeem himself and renew hopes for an individual medal.
Nevertheless Makwala was never given the opportunity to see if he could have pulled an upset against South African favourite Wayde Van Neikerk who won gold in 400m this past Tuesday. Makwala’s controversial disqualification from the 400m final did not only raise eye brows in London as the Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) was quick to lodge a protest,prompting the IAAF to respond by allowing Makwala to qualify for the 200m race. The runner is expected to compete in the 4x400m race along with some of his compatriots in later stages of the competition.
Botswana’s 400m icon Isaac Makwala this week made his way into IAAF World Championship folklore following a controversial disqualification from the 400m race final on Tuesday night in London, UK. However on Wednesday night the local athlete shocked the world when he managed to qualify for both the 200m semi final and final race within two hours.
This week Makwala was one of the most talked about people in the world after taking part in a solo race at the ongoing World championships. The intriguing run saw Makwala qualify for the 200m semi final just hours before the final race qualifier where he came second to Isaiah Young of the USA.
The local athlete became the subject of a major controversy when he was denied entry into the stadium facility where he was due to compete for the 400m final against South African rival Wayde Van Niekerk and his compatriot Baboloki Thebe. Makwala was denied access into the stadium after allegations that he was one of the 30 athletes who were affected by the norovirus following an outbreak at a hotel where some of the athletes are staying. However, the runner insisted that he was never tested for the virus by IAAF doctors.
The following day the issue had become an international uproar and quickly knives were drawn for the IAAF top brass who were swift to act on the matter. A solo race was ordered in which Makwala ran against the clock to beat the 20.53 sec required to qualify for the 200m semi final.
FULL STORY ON THE LATEST EDITION
The Botswana Judo Federation (BJF) is confident that two of its athletes currently on camp will qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
The two junior athletes currently on camp in Tunisia are Gavin Mogopa (under 60kg) and Thato Lebang (under 73kg). Speaking to BG Sport recently, BJF president Estony Pridgeon said the two athletes are preparing well before they compete at the African Judo championships in Tunisia on 9th April.
“The tournament will act as the 2016 Olympic qualifiers,” she said. Pridgeon said the two athletes are training under a coach sponsored by the International Judo Federation (IJF). “The two athletes both 19 years old have been on training camp since 16 November. The camp included a stay at the Tokai University in Japan. They later competed in the IJF Grand slam Tokyo 2015 before attending an international training camp at Kodokan.”
Pridgeon added that this would be the first time BJF attempts to qualify for the Olympics where they will join runners Isaac Makwala, Nijel Amos and Naomi Ruele of swimming. Nevertheless Pridgeon said they previously competed in the Youth Olympic Games. Currently Lebang is 13th in Africa and 150th in the world while Mogopa is currently 138th in the international rankings.
Our chances for qualifying for the Olympic Games are very good. It must be noted that the plan was set up for the two athletes in order to give them exposure to high-level competition and training.” The Botswana National Olympic Committee, Botswana National Sports Commission and the IJF have assisted the judokas with funding to qualify for the Olympics.