JOEY BADUBI JR.
Isaac Makwaka has been Botswana’s most outstanding and consistent athlete for a long time now. He has set and broken his own records, travelled almost the entire world, and is the first and so far only non-president to sit on the President’s chair to address a whole cabinet of Botswana.
Makwala’s success is most visible, hence he is one of the most celebrated athletes that Botswana ever had, if not the most celebrated ever. In a bid to shed some light on his life, he joins Joey Badubi Jr. for this edition of Celeb Spot
Q1. Badman. It is good to have you here. Let us get straight to it and roll back to where it all began. Who is Isaac Makwala and how did you grow up?
A1. I am from Tutume village. Born and bred there.
Q2. So when did you start getting involved with athletics?
A2. I started athletics when I was doing Standard 3. I was not necessarily the best. I also played football from the time until junior secondary school.
Q3. Oh really? Which position did you play?
A3. I played on the right wing. Ko gae we called it motjatja.
Q4. Interesting. So how did you proceed with athletics then?
A4. My father took me to the cattle post since I did not do well at Form 3. Ko Malelejwe, and I stayed there for about a year. It became an eye opening experience for me and it made me realise how difficult life can be. I wanted to get out of there with all my heart. From there I went to pursue a carpentry and joinery course at Nswazi Brigade and the environment there provided me with an opportunity to take athletics seriously.
Q5. Were you still not the best yet then?
A5. There I was the best already. I guess it was because of my stay at the cattle post. I then went on to join the national athletics team in 2006.
Q6. How was it like when you received your first national team call-up? How did you feel?
A6. I was very excited. I was mostly looking forward to gaining experience.
Q7. How did your parents feel about your first national team call up?
A7.My Dad had always been against my efforts of participating in athletics. Like most parents he believed in education for their children. The same applies to my mother. But we managed to convince them to grant me permission to go with the national team on a trip to Mauritius.
Q8. So what motivated you to stay on with your athletics career from there on?
A8. It was the money. Hehehe! From the first trip to Mauritius I got paid around $3 000 and back then it was a decent amount of money. It was about P5000 after exchange and that’s when I realised that go ka jega. Hehehe!
Q9. Hahaha! So who was your competition by the time you joined the national team?
A9. There were brilliant guys like California Molefe. They were mostly the reason I was benched since they were incredibly good.
Q10. So how old were you at the time?
A10. I was about 23 years old.
Q11. That was quite late for an athlete, hey? What kept you pushing even when everything happened at a later age for you?
A11. Well, that is just how things have always been with me. Things just move at a later age for me, and that’s what motivated me to keep on pushing. I always knew what I wanted and I have always been motivated by money. Hahaha!
Q12. So when did you start getting recognition?
A12. Just a year after my first national call-up. I was awarded a scholarship in Senegal for two years. I trained there under incredible facilities and I became a regular for the national team.
Q13. As we have mentioned earlier, you have always been a late starter in almost everything. It makes me wonder at what age you had your first girlfriend?
A13. Hahaha! I think was about 23 years old.
Q14. Let’s talk about your wife now. How and where did you meet her?
A14. I met her at the offices of Botswana National Sports Commission. She works there. There was some Olympic Torch event there and I saw her there for the first time. We did not talk much and two days after I left for Europe. I looked her up on Facebook while in Europe and that is when I really knew it. Hehehe! The fire was burning when I got back.
Q15. Hahaha! Back to athletics now. I understand that you once trained with Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake? How was the experience? And how did that come about?
A15. It was a very heart-warming experience. I won a scholarship to Jamaica. For two years. The scholarship was under Glen Mills who was coaching both Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake. He is an incredible coach who has contributed a lot to my growth. Usain Bolt was such an incredible person too and I learnt a whole lot from him. Yohan Blake was amazing because he welcomed me and showed me around Jamaica. I even won a gold medal afterwards at my second African Championships.
Q16. Speaking of that, I understand that your personal best time is 43:72 right?.
A16. Yes my personal best is 43:72 in 400 metres. I did in Switzerland in 2015.
Q17. You came much under the spotlight at the London World Championships where you were denied to compete in the 400m race and there was a lot of speculation and controversy around it. How did you understand the whole situation and what did you make of it?.
A17. 2017 was a heated time between me and Wayde van Nierkek and what I heard in the news and in the corridors was that a whole lot of betting took place. A large number of people had put their money on Wayde and I was a threat and his biggest completion. That’s why I got barred from competing.
Q18. Are you over the whole incident now?
A18. Yes, I’m over it. It is water under the bridge now.
Q19. Before we close off, have you ever made more than P1 million in year from athletics alone?
A19. Yeah, I have . O batla go mpolaisa magodu akere! Hehehe!
Q20. Hehehe! Well, Badman, thank you very much for doing this. This was awesome. Let us catch up another time.
A20. Thank you so much. ’Bye.