Baboloki Thebe: Botswana’s Unseen Talent Emerges

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– Baboloki Thebe, initially unnoticed, became a sensation.

– Won gold (200m) and bronze (100m) in 2014 Africa Youth Games.

– Patience and hard work led to Rio 2016 qualification.

– Surprised by qualifying in 400m against favorites.

Five years ago no one ever thought that Botswana’s budding athlete Baboloki Thebe would be a household name.

Even after he performed creditably well at the 2nd Africa Youth Games in 2014, scooping a gold medal in 200m and a bronze in the 100m, nothing much was said about him.

But the 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympics 200m silver medallist remained patient, humble and worked very hard in silence.

Baboloki Thebe, who is now a well-known 100 and 200m specialist in Botswana, pulled a very big surprise by qualifying for Rio 2016 Olympic Games in the 400 metres race during the Private Tertiary Institutions Association athletics championship held at the University of Botswana in March.

He clocked 45.23 seconds beating 400m specialists Isaac Makwala who recorded 45.58, and Samoa 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games gold medallist Karabo Sibanda who finished in third place with 46.32.

On Saturday (21 May) he once again proved that his qualification for Rio was not a fluke as when he shattered his own PB by clocking 44.22 seconds at the Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) national championships.

In second position was Sibanda who recorded 45.20 in the event qualifying for Rio Olympics, while veteran Leaname Maotoanong was third in 46.32.

The 19-year-old sprinter shocked the nation on Sunday (22 May) when he qualified for Rio in the 200m with 20.21 barely 24 hours after clocking an impressive time in 400m.

In an interview after the race, Thebe said he was happy to have qualified for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in two different events.

“Remember since Botswana started to participate in the Moscow Olympic Games in 1980 no athlete has qualified in more than one event, so I am happy that I am one of the athletes that managed to break that myth,” he said.

He said his intention was to run a faster time during the 20th Africa Senior Championships to be staged in Durban in three weeks time.

“I still believe I can record quality times in both 200 and 400 meters, but I need to work very hard, as you know nothing comes easy in life,” he added.

Baboloki Thebe was part of the 4x400m men relay team that scooped the first position in 3:02.29 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting held in Doha on 6 May.

International competitions

2014African Youth GamesGaborone, Botswana3rd100 m10.65
1st200 m20.85
World Junior ChampionshipsEugene, United States17th (sf)200 m21.28
10th4 × 100 m relay40.53
5th (h)4 × 400 m relay3:07.801
Youth Olympic GamesNanjing, China2nd200 m21.20
2015African Junior ChampionshipsAddis Ababa, Ethiopia7th (h)100 m11.063
2016African ChampionshipsDurban, South Africa1st400 m44.69
1st4 × 400 m relay3:02.20
World U20 ChampionshipsBydgoszcz, Poland2nd (h)400 m46.252
13th (h)4 × 100 m relay40.41
2nd4 × 400 m relay3:02.81
Olympic GamesRio de Janeiro, Brazil14th (h)400 m45.413
5th4 × 400 m relay2:59.06
2017IAAF World RelaysNassau, Bahamas2nd4 × 400 m relay3:02.28
World ChampionshipsLondon, United Kingdom4th400 m44.66
14th (h)4 × 400 m relay3:06.50
2018Commonwealth GamesGold Coast, Australia2nd400 m45.09
1st4 × 400 m relay3:01.78
African ChampionshipsAsaba, Nigeria1st400 m44.81
2019African GamesRabat, Morocco200 mDNF
2021Olympic GamesTokyo, Japan3rd4 × 400 m relay2:57.27
2023World ChampionshipsBudapest, Hungary4th (h)4 × 400 m relay2:59.421
1: Disqualified in the final
2: Disqualified in the semifinals
3: Did not start in the semifinals

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