Botswana’s Tebogo is looking for double gold at the Games


Letsile Tebogo, sprinting sensation from Botswana, is aiming to be the first African athlete to walk away victorious in events previously dominated by his hero, Usain Bolt.

The 20-year-old athlete from a country known for its diamonds has gold in his sights at this year’s Olympic Games. Tebogo, a 100 m and 200 m athlete, turns 21 in June this year and it will probably be the ideal (late) birthday present for him to achieve this milestone.

Bolt boasts eight Olympic gold medals and is the only sprinter to have dominated three consecutive Games (2008, 2012 and 2016). The Jamaican collected 11 medals at world championships between 2007 and 2017.

After her silver medal in the 100 m and her third place in the 200 m in Budapest last year, Tebogo has set her sights even higher.

“He (Bolt) is my hero, the person I look up to the most. What he achieved was truly incredible.”

Tebogo has watched Bolt on TV over the years and says his is a name that everyone remembers.

“I would love for them to remember me when I hang up my running shoes,” says the athlete from the University of Oregon on the American west coast.

“I don’t need to be number one of all time; to be in the top three will be good enough.”

Tebogo grew up in Kanye, south of Botswana’s capital Gaborone.

His commitment testifies to a plan that extends far beyond Botswana.

“The time has come for African athletes to dominate sprint events on the international stage,” he said.

There has never been an athlete from Africa who was able to reach the top three in the 100 m at a world championship – until Tebogo managed it last year in the Budapest stadium.

He clocked 9.88 seconds, 0.30 seconds more than the world record set by Bolt in 2009 when he finished second, behind American Noah Lyles, in the final.

Lyles also won the 200 m in the Hungarian capital, followed by his compatriot Erriyon Knighton, with Tebogo third – a mere 0.29 of a second behind the champion.

The two medals were the first to be won at a world championship by an athlete from Botswana. Countryman Amantle Montsho won gold and silver in the women’s 400m at the world championships in 2011 and 2013 respectively.

Tebogo’s mother, Seratiwa, also a former athlete, plays a key role in his life.

Unbeknownst to him, Seratiwa caught a flight to Budapest and later told a Gaborone radio station about her pre-race nerves to watch her son.

“Why was I nervous? There is always the fear of an uneven start, disqualification, or that he might strain a muscle or sustain another injury.”

His mother may have been anxious, but Tebogo was very relaxed and later said that “my mind was clear; it must be because you cannot run a good race if you are stressed”.

“I relax before races by listening to traditional music from my native country. Apart from the beautiful sounds, it reminds me of where I come from and who I represent.”

Seratiwa says ultimately Tebogo is not only running for Botswana.

“He carries the flag for the whole of Africa. It makes me extremely proud.

“The world probably sees Letsile Tebogo as a rising athletic star, but when he comes back to Botswana he is my humble, respectful son.”

Seratiwa noted that her son loved sports from an early age. Botswana, like many other African countries, are big football enthusiasts. Tebogo struggled with football, but soon realized that athletics was his great love and was soon a star at successive o. 20 world championships.

In the Kenyan capital Nairobi in 2021 and in the Colombian city of Cali one year later, he won the 100 m and finished second in the 200 m.

In Cali, Tebogo emulated his hero Bolt and smiled at silver medalist Bouwahjgie Nkrumie as he sailed across the finish line.

“No disrespect was intended. I just wanted everyone watching at home to enjoy the race – to remind them a little of what Usain did back then,” explained Tebogo.