Botswana’s 400m track runner Lydia Jele returned to track for the first time in four years with a stelar performance at the Road to Gaborone International Meet (GIM) track and field event held in Gaborone at the weekend. She recently completed her four-year ban by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) from athletics after she tested positive for a prohibited substance in 2017.
Jele who was the centre of attraction in the fully packed national stadium clocked a stunning 53.49 to finish 2nd in 400m behind Rhoda Njobvu of Zambia and qualified for the highly anticipated Africa Senior Championships billed for Mauritius in June this year.
She has been under the tutelage of coach Ofentse Jele who is also her husband, and he coaches other best performing athletes at the moment such as Thuto Masasa, Leungo Matlhaku and Thomphang Basele amongst others.
Jele’s return is considered as a major booster to the Women’s 4 X 400m relay team that has lost the former world champion Amantle Montsho who retired last year after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. She is expected to join and strengthen the team that consists of Christine Bologetswe, Galefele Moroko, Oarabile Babolayi-Mokenane and Matlhaku amongst others.
Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) has hailed Jele’s return as they are of the view that she returns at the right time to replace the legendary Amantle who have been the pillar of the women relay team. “We are happy to have her back and her performance says it all, she is a hard worker, and we believe that she will do wonders on track.
She was a very important member of the relay team, and we believe that she will resurrect it to a better team more so that there are lots of international events lined up for this year. We don’t want to put pressure on her and we are giving her much needed time to get back to her best. She is coached by her husband, and they are still not open about talking to the media about themselves and the progress that Jele has made so far,” said BAA representative who preferred to be anonymous.
The 32-year-old previously won three medals with the women 4 x400m relay team (2 silver) at the 2013 Africa Championships held in Benin and the 2015 All Africa Games in Congo Brazzaville and bronze and Africa Championships in Marrakesh, Morocco in 2014.
She was also part of the team that competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics and the 2017 World Championships held in Brazil and England respectively. She is expected to compete at the GIM Continental Bronze tour slated for Gaborone on the 30th of April in Gaborone where she will be looking onto hit a qualifying mark for the World Championships and Commonwealth Games slated for Oregon and Birmingham this winter.
Jele became the second Motswana female athlete to be banned for doping following Amantle Montsho who was also suspended for two years after she tested positive for a prohibited substance methylhexanamine. She made a return in 2018 and won a gold medal at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in Australia and went on to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics before she retired last year.