Bots relay team stun Jamaica to win silver in Bahamas
By Bakang Mhaladi
GABORONE – Botswana’s 4x400m relay team sent shock waves at the IAAF World Relays Championships in Bahamas on Monday beating fancied Jamaica as the quartet finished second behind the United States of America.
Isaac Makwala, Baboloki Thebe, Onkabetse Nkobolo and Karabo Sibanda put on a fine display of 400m running as they held the Jamaicans at bay to claim a silver medal.
The team, the best in Africa at the moment, has already secured qualification to the World Championships in London in August.
Some local fans woke up early Monday to follow the race which took place at 4am Botswana time.
They were not disappointed as the local team produced a scintillating run to cross the line in 3:02:28, a season’s best, behind the US who won in 3:02:13. Jamaica won bronze in a time of 3:02.86, with Trinidad and Tobago close by with a time of 3:03.17.
Botswana’s performance has placed them as one of the favorites for gold at the World Championships. The Botswana team was minus the omitted 2014 800m Commonwealth Games champion, Nijel Amos, who was left out as he has been inactive since the beginning of the year.
Makwala got the ball rolling, but the ‘elder statesman’, at 30, handed the baton to Thebe in fifth.
Thebe, the fastest man in the 400m this year, improved to fourth, before Nkobolo subtracted two runners to give the stick to Sibanda in second. Sibanda, a rising 400m talent after reaching the finals of Rio 2016, pushed US’ former World champion, LaShawn Merritt, all the way, but the American managed to fend off competition to finish ahead.
The Botswana team’s performance prompted the Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture Development, Thapelo Olopeng to pledge undivided attention as the athletes prepare for this year’s World Championships as well as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“Age is on their side. The athletes are still young and as government, we are going to do our all to prepare the team. We want to ensure they bring a medal from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics,” Olopeng told local media this week.
The Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) spokesperson, Ipolokeng Ramatshaba said the team faced a tough challenge in the Bahamas and passed with flying colors.
“The focus should now turn to the World Championships. It is a job well done,” Ramatshaba said. A welcome ceremony was scheduled for Thursday, with the team expected to receive a mandatory P75,000 cash incentive for their feat.