Nijel Amos blast into the limelight back in 2012 when as a fresh-faced teenager from Marobela, he won the country’s first ever Olympic medal in London.
But Amos has not been able to add to that silver medal since, and has not kicked on and stamped his full authority.
When a gold medal appears a safe bet, at times circumstances connive to deny athletics’ poster boy his moment of glory.
The hopes of the nation were on his shoulders as he jetted off to the coastal city of Gold Coast for Commonwealth Games in 2018. Those hopes were shattered when he went down with an injury.
“When I went to Gold Coast, I was heading to the Commonwealth Games stage for the second time. I had bagged a gold medal at the previous event so I was the 800m defending champion. My goal was to defend my title,” Amos told Mmegi Sport.
He said two weeks before the Games, he did 1:44:66 on his first 800m. He said that was an indication that he was ready to go out and defend his title.
“Sadly an incident I could not avoid what happened in the semi finals. I hurt my calf muscles and I did not pull out of the final because I thought I could manage the injury and defend my title. I went ahead, leading the final race to set pace where I could be able to handle the pain until the last 100m and give all I had,” he said.
Amos explained that he could not bear the pain and unfortunately with 200m to go, the rest of the athletes started attacking.
He said the pack had responded earlier than he had anticipated and he could not keep it together until the finishing line. “When I got injured, it never occurred to me that my career was over. From 2012 until to date, the lowest I have ranked in the world is number 26 and all other times is either I am world number one or two,” he said. Amos said he is no longer running to achieve the fastest time because he has done it all his life.
There is a trend of local elite athletes picking injuries at crucial times during championships. Amos said injuries have nothing to do with anxiety or stage fright.
“Most of these injuries happen during training. We need to have better structures in place, in terms of athletes’ support and development phases. We should have full compact support around athletes, strength conditioners, dieticians and physiologists. (We need) All it takes for an athlete to deliver at the world stages levels,” he said.
The Olympic silver medallist signed a contract with Oregon Track Club Elite in 2017. Amos said the intention of joining the club was to train in order to win a global championship. He has rediscovered his form in America.
“I met Mark Rowland in 2017 and I knew that he produces champions. So I went there to build a structure to win global championships. We had an agreement that in 2018, I should run 1:44:00 and I did. In 2019, I should run 1:41:00, which I managed and it was the fastest time in the world. The last time that was clocked was in 2012,” he said.
Amos set the men’s 800m meet record by running 1:44.65, the second-fastest time in the world at the 2018 Stanford Invitational field.
At the 2019’s Monaco Diamond League meet showed that Amos was back to his peak as he ran a blistering 1:41.89, hitting 600m at 1:15.22.
The Oregon track club recently competed in a virtual dual meet with Atlanta track club. Amos together with his teammates collected individual wins.
“My winning time was 1:17.80 in 600m. The race was meant to raise funds for local charities in Oregon and Atlanta. I have also donated food parcels in my home village of Marobela to residents feeling the impact COVID-19,” he said.
Meanwhile, on qualifying for Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Amos said it was a relief. But the Olympics were postponed to next year due to COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is not easy to have a fluent training programme with lockdowns and all, imposed. Now all I am focusing on is to keep the positive energy, and get ready as much as I can for whenever Olympics happen,” Amos said.
Regarding the mishaps that surround local athletes, Amos said it is lack of support system. “I remember when it all started for me. I was a 19-year-old boy and the spotlight was on me. I struggled with pressure and I did not have anybody to protect me. The system you have in Botswana does not protect athletes. For athletes to progress and stay away from wayward ways they must be protected and they would deliver. It is a two way system,” Amos said.