Botswana's 400 metres icon, Amantle Montsho froze on stage as she was offered a platform to tell the world her story during the International Working Group (IWG) on Women and Sport Conference that ended yesterday in Gaborone.
Introduced to the stage by television personality from South Africa, Carol Tshabalala, Montsho draped in a long dress, walked into the stage boasting of confidence with a microphone. Little did the audience know what was in store for them!
When the discussion started, Montsho kept quiet despite being asked to talk by the moderator, Tshabalala.
Tshabalala made many efforts to engage Montsho and at some point she said in Sesotho; “O ka buwa ka Setswana! You can speak in Setswana”. Still there was no reaction from the Commonwealth gold medallist. Tshabalala then decided to proceeded with the discussion excluding Montsho. The audience tried to plead with her, telling her how much they love and respect her.
IWG secretary general, Game Mothibi ended up joining Montsho on stage and begged her to say something. At that point Montsho uttered a few words; “I am not ready for this conference. I have been busy,” she said. Malebo Raditladi who is a member of Safe Sport programme told Sport Monitor that the Montsho incident was hurting. She said the challenge was that local athletes lack self-confidence.
“In some instances it is about the background; how you grew and the environment where you come from. As sport administrators, we should model them,” she said.
Raditladi said elite athletes should be in a position to face the media and state their feelings. “I feel the moderator should have saved her. When you moderate, you gauge the person you are engaging with. When she
She said instead of excluding her from the discussion, she could have asked her to leave the stage.
“At one point, Montsho was crying and I think she was asking herself questions of what was happening. Stage fright scared her even when she is in the field she has the same feeling,” Raditladi said.
Former South African swimmer, Natalie du Toit could identify, noting that communication is important. She said it is a tough thing. “An athlete might rise up to the scene unexpectedly and the media would want interviews. When I look back in my life I did not know anything about interviews,” she said. Du Toit said it is important athletes know who they are and what they stand for. “Nobody knows what the challenge was up there.
She even shed a few tears. A few weeks after winning a Commonwealth medal and you take an athlete and put her in front of an audience, emotions run high. She needs to practise a bit. The whole country must appreciate her for what she is. She is a quiet person, she is the gentle one and I believe she speaks well,” she said. Du Toit said they must work with her but not on what she must say. She said Montsho must be taught who she is and what she can share.