Nijel Amos, fresh from a runners-up medal at the 2019 Diamond League, will bear the weight of expectation when Botswana travels to Doha for the World Championships next week.
The Botswana team has been left light by the absence of 400m superstar, Isaac Makwala, Baboloki Thebe and Karabo Sibanda.
The country’s only former world champion, Amantle Montsho would be in Doha, but at 36-years-old, not much is expected from her.
This leaves Amos to carry much of the burden as he searches for the country’s first medal since Montsho was crowned world champion in Daegu, South Korea in 2011.
There have been promising performances in the build-up to major tournaments of late, only for the athletes to flatter to deceive.
After Amos grabbed the country’s first ever Olympic Games medal, with a silver in London seven years ago, there has been no major title either at the Olympics or World Championships, considered the biggest athletics stage.
The Commonwealth Games have been the consistent conduit for medals, with last year’s haul of eight medals, the highest.
But the World Championships and the Olympic Games, are a considerable step higher than the Commonwealth Games. Botswana returned home empty-handed from the 2017 championships in London, despite sending a star-studded team.
In 2015, with Montsho serving a two-year suspension for taking a banned substance, Makwala was the best performer in Beijing, when he reached the finals but could only finish fifth. Amos, who carried the nation’s hopes, stumbled out in the heats. Botswana had sent five athletes.
Two years earlier, Botswana had sent 11 athletes but only managed a silver medal through Montsho.
In 2011, Montsho had won the country’s only gold medal at the World Championships.
This year, Botswana is sending the largest contingent, at 13, but medal prospects beyond Amos, look remote.
The team still has experience in Christine Botlogetswe, Boitumelo Masilo, Onkabetse Nkobolo, Gaone Maotoanong and recently crowned 400m women’s champion, Galefele Moroko.
Coach, Justice Dipeba acknowledges that the absence of experienced trio; Makwala, Sibanda and Thebe, will rob the team of added quality.
“In terms of experience, I think the absence of Sibanda, Thebe and Makwala, is going to be noticed, especially when it comes to running the relay. But in all, the team is strong enough to put up a good fight and perform well. Their times are good,” Dipeba said. The team’s send off ceremony would be held today.