Life in the fast lane
Blink and there’s a good chance you may miss him!
Although he only turned 18 in June, Letsile ‘Schoolboy’ Tebogo is already the fastest man in Botswana.
On his way to 100m Gold at the U/20 World Championships in Kenya last month, the Kanye whizz-kid clocked a lightning-fast 10.11 in the semi-final.
It is the fastest a Motswana has ever run the 100m, beating the 10.20 set by the great Isaac Makwala seven years ago.
Tebogo’s Kenyan heroics saw him become the first local athlete to win a medal in the 100m – the fact that it was Gold made it all the sweeter.
The talented teen, a Form Five Gaborone Senior School student, was back in action the very next day, winning Silver in the 200m, his favourite distance.
This week we sit down with the explosive athlete to find out a bit more about his life in the fast lane.
Massive congratulations on your two-medal haul at the U/20 World Championships last month. How does it feel to be a history-breaker?
It is such an unexplainable feeling.
I am equally happy, excited, and curious about what the future holds for me in athletics.
Tell us what went through your mind as you approached the finish line in the 100m final?
To achieve my dream of being the first Motswana to bring home an international Gold medal in a 100m race [In fact it was the first medal of any colour Botswana has won at an international competition!].
There were strong contenders in the finals.
I told myself if I could beat these guys at the start then I will be gone and none of them will catch me.
Unfortunately, I had a tumble at the start and I had to double my speed and won the race right at the end.
How did it feel knowing the eyes of the nation, including the President’s, was on you?
It was hectic!
The messages we got from Batswana and the leaders of the country were just overwhelming.
Anxiety, pressure, and satisfaction all at the same time.
Ooh and the thought that this achievement could earn me an opportunity to meet the President spiked my adrenaline.
How did you manage to handle the pressure so well?
Playing on the words of my Coach, Dose Mosimanyane: ‘Be yourself, enjoy the races.’
That made me stay focused and do what the coaches taught me during the preparation.
Of the two disciplines, 100 and 200m, which one do you prefer?
200m is my favourite because I tend to gain more speed after about 50m, yet with 100m that is almost the finish line.
ha o bonya, go ile hela jalo (you snooze, you lose it). Isaac Makwala has always encouraged me to run 200m.
Yet you won the 100m and finished second when the distance was doubled. Was fatigue to blame for missing out on 200m Gold?
Five races in two consecutive days for a junior athlete is such a mammoth task.
Fatigue had taken its toll on me.
Furthermore, I was fielded amongst good, fresh competitors.
Nonetheless, a Silver medal is a huge achievement in an international competition.
I am content with it.
Will you continue to compete in both events in the future or do you intend to focus on one?
The future is unpredictable.
My capabilities and the coaches’ advice will determine such.
I thought I do best in 200m but I got Silver on it and won Gold in 100m.
Why didn’t you take part in the 100m relays?
I had too much on my plate, the heats, semis, and finals within a short time.
I had to be relieved from the relay heats to rest before the 200m final.
It was also the advice from the Massage Physiotherapist to rest me, as I was still recovering from a muscle pull on my right leg and too much activity could have put a strain on it.
Delving back in time, what made you choose athletics?
(Laughing happily) Did I choose athletics or athletics chose me?
I loved both football and athletics, but I was mostly put on the bench during football matches.
I got bored and pursued athletics, more so that my teachers both at Primary School and Junior Secondary School encouraged me to run.
Thank you, teachers, your role cannot go unnoticed!
So who identified your talent?
Thank you for asking me this question because people do not know who nurtured my talent.
During our camp in Orapa for the COSSASA Games, which were to be held in Swakopmund, Namibia in 2016, former national team, Coach Mogomotsi Otsetswe happened to be there.
Otsetswe was very impressed with my performance and took me under his wing.
He nurtured me into this gem that I am becoming.
I will forever honour and respect you Coach Otsetswe.
I understand Adidas and Nike have both approached you with possible sponsorship deals, who is advising you in such matters?
Ooh is it? Lo ntima dikgang (that’s news to me).
Should such offers come, my mother, coach, Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) will be there to advise.
But do you plan on appointing a full-time manager?
Athletics is a career, which definitely needs someone with the skills and the know-how to manage it.
My duty is to run, run and run.
Yes, I need a manager.
2021 is a busy year for you, both on and off the track.
You sit your BGCSE exams in a few months, how important is education to you?
Athletics is a short-lived career rocked with injuries – therefore I need a qualification to fall back on.
Thus I will be studying whilst running. Education is important.
Speaking of education, how did your nickname ‘Schoolboy’ come about?
I was the youngest and only scholar in the team which went to Poland for the World Relays, hence the nickname ‘Schoolboy’ which I am soon to outgrow (laughs loudly).
You’ve received overwhelming support from Batswana, what’s your message to them?
I will always be indebted to the massive support we received as a team.
The competitions, both the Olympics and the Under 20 World Championships, brought us together; we shared words of encouragement, jokes, memes, and happiness for a while.
This was a rare thing since the outbreak of Covid-19.
It is good to put a smile on someone’s face.
This made me go all out to please the nation.
If people can go to the extent of offering you their villages, their Covid-19 vaccines, all you can do is make their offers worthwhile.
Thank you DITEC for honouring your promise.
Your laptop and router came in handy as I am preparing for my BGCSE.
KeNo Custom Suits, I will be the most handsome ‘Schoolboy’ at our matric dance.
My first suit ever!
Bo anonymous, thank you for the money you contributed, it was much appreciated.
Charma Gal, thanks for everything.
And to all those who donated goats to me, including former Minister, Rre Olopeng aka DJ Tips, I can already start preparing for life after sport.
Indeed the whole nation is needed to grow a child holistically.
All sporting bodies who made our trip possible, thank you.
Away from athletics, who is Letsile Tebogo?
I am an ordinary Motswana boy, who goes to my home village Kanye or Moraka on weekends or holidays.
Ke tlhwaahaletse dikhwaere, lo seka lwa botsa gore a kopelo ke a e itse tlhe! (I miss Dikhwaere. Don’t ask me if I can sing)
And what do you do for fun?
I still play football during my spare time.
I love the sport.
Who is your inspiration?
Usain Bolt. We run the same sprints/codes.
He has not had any bad publicity which really motivates me to keep focused; eyes on the ball!.
And finally, Thank God It’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?
How I wish there was such a thing as a weekend!
It’s books, books, and more books.
I am sitting for my BGCSE in about two months, therefore there is a lot to catch up on.
I missed a lot during athletics trips