We anticipated that most people would like to know more about this young lad who made history for this country when he won a silver medal and as such we decided to visit Nigel's family in Chilindi Ward in Marobela Village in the Central District where he hails from.It did not take much difficulty to locate Nijel's homestead as he is the talk of the town and village.
Not knowing what to expect when we finally made it to the home, we were warmly received and ended up interacting beautifully with the family. Soon after arriving curious relatives and neighbours started to trickle into the home. According to Nijel's relatives, residents of Marobela have been coming in droves to congratulate the family ever since he won the history-making 800m race in 1:41:73 on Thursday. The celebratory mood could be felt all around. Since the historical night the family has been visited by numerous well-wishers, including the media. Nijel is an orphan and was raised by his two grandmothers. His living grandmother Gakenaope Amos said that though they are not a rich family Nijel was raised with much love. She says that Nijel did not even feel the loss of his mother who died when he was only five years old in 1999. The 78-year-old granny said that she did not watch the epic race but when she heard the news next morning she was overjoyed.
"I came home and made a cup of tea and after that I felt better and could not digest the news," she said. When asked if she had watched the race on television she jokingly responded: "Hey gake bonane le selo seo." The grandmother described the young Nijel as someone who is humble and who did not easily succumb to peer pressure when he was growing-up. "He has never had many friends. He was always focused and knew what he wanted to achieve," she said. She said that Nijel went to Nyamambisi Primary School in Marobela and to Shangano Junior Secondary School in Sebina before proceeding to McConnell College for high school.
Nijel's talent on the track was unearthed by his teachers when he was doing Form Three. "They used to come here to ask us if he could go on sports trips. If I had money I gave him what I could afford and they (school officials) helped me and eventually they used to sponsor him on their own so he could go and compete," she stated.The old woman said that she felt at peace and very happy at her grandson's performance because now she knows that he will take care of her. "U noo ndi biganya mwana iwoyo (he will give me a proper burial)," she said.According to his sister, Francinah, Nijel was offered athletics scholarships outside the country like in Spain, the USA and Kenya. Francinah could not hide her happiness when she jokingly said that Nijel has raised the family name. "He has put us on the top table," she said, leaving everyone present in stitches. Francinah is Nijel's older sister.
"We are four. There is a first born, who is a female; myself, Nigel and then a last born, who is a boy. We are four," the affable Francinah repeated with a smile. She went on to say that when Nijel was growing up he was well behaved and focused and unlike most boys in the area he had never been tempted or influenced into drinking alcohol. Whenever he is around he is always home and he likes to hang around the house, maybe with his cousin but not friends. He does not really have any friends," she said. She added that as he grew up Nijel always wanted to be successful at whatever he was doing and finally he has made it."He always knew that he would make it," said the sister. She said that when Nijel was due to race he called them from London and said that he was not going to disappoint the country and that he was going to bring something home."He called us before the race saying that he was going to try and bring something (a medal) home - and he has done it," she said. Francinah said that she still could not believe it; she could not eat and could not sleep because of the happiness. She said that her brother would now get her a passport so she can go with him so she too can see the world. She said that her brother would no doubt continue to grow.
"He is still young because at the next Olympics in 2016 he will be only 22 years and he will even be more experienced," she stated. Francinah told The Monitor that people from Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) had also come with an offer to buy the grandmother an air ticket to Gaborone so she can welcome her grandson home.The village headman Rapelang Khuwe, was also overwhelmed with joy. He said that a few days before the final race he had approached the Botswana Council of Churches to request that all churches gather and pray for Nijel in their respective places of worship, which everyone was only glad to do.He said that Nijel added to a number of celebrities who hail from Marobela, including Ikalanga jazz icon Ndingo Johwa, soccer star Patrick Zibochwa and track master Mbiganyi Thee.According to the family, a huge celebration is being prepared for Nijel when he returns to his home village. Undeniably a star has been born.