At a time when there is little to celebrate in Botswana sports, track athletes are offering a reprieve. Isaac Makwala and Nijel Amos are shining very bright and have send out a clear message that they will be entering next month’s World Championships in Beijing with medal prospects very high. In fact, close observers already count them in the finals of their respective events – 400m and 800m. It is how they fare there which will determine the medal they get. Makwala has never been faster. In a recent dramatic twist that placed him as the best ever runner in Africa in 400m it took him less than 24 hours to regain his leading status after a South African runner Wayde van Niekerk had lowered his record. Makwala - the reigning African 400m champion – sprinted to a time of 43.72 seconds to reclaim his African record that van Niekerk had reduced to 43.96 seconds. According to athletics-africa.com the feat moved Makwala to the “fifth on the world all-time list, making him the fastest non-US 400m sprinter in history”. This is an incredible achievement by all standards. And when one assumes that Makwala is yet to reach his real peak then it goes without saying that more records are yet to tumble under his spell on his way to greatness. With more focused and specialist training, his feet have a chance to get faster. He has less than five years to achieve all he could before reaching retirement age. This is the unfortunate thing with track sport; playing shelf live is limited. He now has to prime himself well to raise the bar in major competitions. At the Commonwealth Games last year, tactical ineptitude saw him falling out of the medal table. With time being the worst enemy and new crop of talent threatening his supremacy, Makwala will do well to get even smarter and sharper. This country and your many fans across the globe count on you!
What lacks in Amos trophy cabinet is major world level gold medal – not for the juniors but senior professional athletes. He has Olympic silver and Commonwealth Gold medals. It is the ultimate gold – from World Championships or next year’s Olympics that we await. At this stage he is the leading man in his event – 800m! Just two weeks ago, I watched him once more doling out free lessons to his nemesis Kenyan David Rudisha, the world record holder. With great easiness, he sailed past the Kenyan 50 metres to the finish line. Rudisha had kicked in with about 200 metres left but as it is increasingly proving his failure in the final push is what Amos is making good use of. Amos was to run Friday and later this week in London where he will once more take on Rudisha. While any victory against Rudisha matters, it is at the World Championships that Amos must aim. He could forfeit victories in the low note races to engage in strategic preparations; to trail the champion just so that he is able to evaluate how best to defeat him where it matters the most. As things stand, I do not foresee him losing out his leadership in the IAAF Diamond League. Injury remains the biggest threat. At the end of his recent event, he needed support to walk back to the change rooms. For one moment, I was worried he could have been injured. His aim of breaking the world record soon is not something out of reach. It falls within his current time of 43 seconds. What remains now is to continue building his race plan and introducing effects that could make him run even faster, particularly in the final push.
The two stars and other upcoming talent will be better advised to be vigilant in caring for themselves to ensure that they stay as far away from drugs as possible. Doping destroys careers and one would hate to see such promising talent going up in smoke due to that. Your simple motto should be: Stay fit; run faster and hate drugs! With this the future will be bright. The eyes of the world athletics family are on you. Batswana look up to you.