The Botswana athletics team, which is missing some big names, will go into the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha, starting today, as underdogs.
The country has been an ever present threat at the world stage in the past decade, culminating in the crowning of Amantle Montsho as the 400m world champion in 2011, while Nijel Amos won Botswana’s first ever Olympic Games medal a year later in London.
There has been significant progress since, with Amos, Montsho and Isaac Makwala the constant participants and winners at the Diamond League races.
But as the team flew out to Doha last week, the aura of invincibility was missing. Without some trusted names in Makwala, Baboloki Thebe and Karabo Sibanda, the team appears significantly weaker.
This leaves all eyes on Amos, who has made a strong comeback this season. The 800m star recently finished as runner-up in the IAAF Diamond League, although he had started as favourite.
He would be the first athlete from Botswana to take to the track in the first heat on Saturday. He is the man to beat after he registered this year’s leading time and the season’s best of 1:41.89.
But Amos faces stiff competition from American, Donovan Brazier who beat him in the Diamond League trophy. The 2017 champion, Pierre-Ambroise Bosse of France cannot be disregarded.
While Amos is a medal prospect, pressure would not be on debutants, Leungo Scotch and Ditiro Nzamani. The two make their first appearance in the world’s biggest athletics stage, where they will run in the 400m, a race where Makwala, Sibanda and Thebe have thrived in the past.
Galefele Moroko has had a good season after winning a gold medal at the African Games in Morocco last month.
She is expected to cause an upset during her heat on Monday. Christine Botlogetswe is coming back from an injury that denied her a chance to compete in the Diamond League.
Montsho is expected to lead the women’s 4x400m relay team, which is made up of Oarabile Nowe, Tlhomphang Basele and Oarabile Babolayi. The men’s team has Leaname Maotoanong, Onkabetse Nkobolo and Zibane Ngozi.
Team coach, Kebonemodisa Dose Mosimanyane said it is hot in Doha, but the team arrived well on time to acclimatise.
“Everything is in place and the athletes are ready to deliver. I think there is a possibility of us causing an upset. A lot is at stake and we cannot take anything for granted. Amos is the senior in the team and he is expected to lead by example,” he said.
Mosimanyane said his young squad is hungry for success and they intend to go all out.
Meanwhile, Makwala said it was hard to predict the outcome of the championships. He said it has been a long athletics season. He said it is not going to be easy even for seasoned campaigners to make podium finishes.