Ordinarily, an 18-year-old will pick books over any other activity, but for Letsile Tebogo it is a no-brainer.
Tebogo completed his Form 5 at Gaborone Senior Secondary School last year, at a time when his athletics career was already blossoming. By the time he sat for his school-leaving examinations, Tebogo was already a junior world 100m champion and a silver medallist in the 200m. He is tipped to go on and achieve legendary status on the track, with a potentially career-defining year ahead. He will make his bow at the Africa Senior Championships in Mauritius, the World Championships in Oregon, US, the World Junior Championships in Colombia, and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. With such a hectic athletics schedule, Tebogo said, for now, his focus is on athletics.
“Last year, when I was doing Form 5, I had to leave athletics and focus on school work. It was not easy to leave something that one likes. Go ne go se motlhofo tota to leave athletics and focus on books because we are not all gifted academically. It was difficult, but I had to manage,” Tebogo told Mmegi Sport. “My first priority will be... that’s a tough one, but I think I will go with athletics if you look at where I am now. I think athletics will do, as I said we are not all gifted academically, so I will choose athletics,” he added. Tebogo said breaking the 100m record was never in mind when he took to the track at the GIM.
“It never came to my mind that I will break the record. What was in mind was to beat the seniors in the race. The record was not in my and coach’s plans,” he said. The confident Tebogo wants to leave a lasting legacy on the track.
“In the near future, I see myself as one of the best athletes. I want to be remembered as one of the best athletes who ever lived.”
Tebogo’s exploits have set even the wildest dreams in motion, with talk of breaking Usain Bolt’s long-standing 100m record forming part of the early narrative. “It has never come to my mind, maybe it will in a year or two,” he said.
Bolt remains the world’s fastest man long after he retired, after setting the 9.58 mark in 2009. Tebogo’s remarkable short career has seen him break the national 100m record three times since February last year. While Tebogo’s path to stardom appears clear, there are pitfalls the Kanye lad has to avoid. So often has local athletics seen the rise of promising athletes get tripped along the way as fame blinds their way. While it has not been entirely catastrophic, there have been concerns over the trajectory of some stars’ paths, with Nijel Amos, Baboloki Thebe, Karabo Sibanda, and Onkabetse Nkobolo all hitting a cul-de-sac at some stage in their careers. Nkobolo is now wheelchair bound after an incident in 2020 which occurred when they left camp together with Thebe.