Men’s relay team bags silver medal
Botswana’s senior relay team sprinted off to a silver medal securing their first ever global medal on Monday night at the 3rd edition of the IAAF World Relays in Bahamas. The team finished the race with a clocking of 3:02:28 another season’s best and an improvement from the qualifying time.
Individually the country had always shone through the heroics of the experienced Isaac Makwala, the emerging young duo sensation of Baboloki Thebe and Karabo Sibanda and the resurfaced Amantle Montsho. Continentally Botswana has been the cream of the crop for years in the 4x400m relay, but with recent records it was highly likely that a global medal was looming large on the horizon especially for the men’s senior relay team.
For the men’s relay team the real optimism for a podium finish was based on a number of factors, one being a major lift in Baboloki Thebe’s return from a recurring injury which sidelined him at the Rio 2016 Olympics. The other factor was a clean bill of health from all the top quarter-milers of the team. For athletes like Onkabetse Nkobolo who were under harsh criticism at the Rio Olympics it was a chance to prove his mettle to compete at a global stage.
It was a silver medal written in the stars for the team perhaps gold if it was not for the ever mercurial USA team which is surely becoming Botswana’s greatest rivals in the 400m cadre.
Botswana started off with the ever reliable and experienced Makwala who started off to a fine tune despite fading on the home stretch but kept his composure to handover to Thebe who exploded from fifth to fourth and kept up with the rest of the leading pack making it a close affair, a blistering run from Nkobolo with the USA team on the lead and the duo of Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago chasing made it a pulsating four team race.
A swift changeover between Nkobolo and Sibanda was the defining moment of the race for the Botswana team, the young Olympic finalist shot past Jamaican and Trinidad and Tobago athletes midway through as he piled pressure on USA’s Lashawn Merritt who was also the anchor runner for the USA team. Merrit used his experience to hold off the gutsy Sibanda who stayed on his shoulder all the way to the finishing line to finish second.
In the end the collective effort of the quartet and managerial acumen of the architect in plotting for the race by national team coach Mogomotsi Otsetswe proved on point.
The silver medal has however come at a costly price despite finishing the race the duo of Makwala and Thebe aggravated the light injuries they were carrying heading to final. The medical team will surely sweat over to get the duo.
Still at the World Relays the women’s relay team who were also eyeing a podium finish at the final missed out on that chance as they finished sixth. The team which comprised of IAAF Championships bound trio Amantle Montsho and Christine Botlogetswe and Lydia Jele will take pride in the national record of 03:30:13 which they will use a morale booster heading to London in the coming months.
The mixed team also fell short of a medal as they could not finish their race following Boitumelo Masilo’s injury during the race. The mixed relay was the newest addition to the competition’s programme.