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Franco for TYM 6.0

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Frank Lesokwane’s music fortunes have turned for the better, after years of going under the radar in spite of the massive talent he possess.

Currently he’s the most trending Botswana artist following his announcement he plans to fill up the National Stadium in April.

Franco, a self made Kwasa Kwasa King is a man in high demand.

It didn’t come as a shocker when organisers of Toropo Ya Muka announced him as one of the leading acts on May 30th – in fact he’s the only confirmed artist thus far.

A lyricist par excellence, ‘Lepako’ as he’s affectionately known will be making his debut appearance at the six-year-old annual show.

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Simply the greatest

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*THE HUMBLE HISTORY MAKER

With her career seemingly drifting into oblivion, stained by a failed drugs-test six years ago, the country’s most decorated athlete produced arguably her greatest comeback earlier this month.

On 14 March, at a low key University of Botswana Athletics Club meet, former 400m World Champion Amantle Montsho qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (now postponed until 2021).

Displaying the determination and guts that has defined her time on the track, the 36-year-old defied her aging limbs, clocking 51.22 seconds to smash the required qualifying time of 51.35. In doing so, the Maun native once again carved her name into the history books, becoming the first Motswana to qualify for four Olympics.

Having missed out on a place at the last Games due to suspension, for Montsho it represents redemption of sorts and a final shot at a medal she was .03 of a second away from claiming at London 2012.

The current Commonwealth Champion sat down with Voice Sport’s Portia Mlilo to look back over her eventful career, a career that might contain one more incredible high.

Who inspired you to become a professional athlete?

I joined athletics when I was doing Standard Three in 1992 and by then I was doing it for fun. Our Coach at Bonata Primary School, Thobogang recognized my talent and nurtured it.

I started running 100m and 200m but by junior school I focused on 400m. When I finished my Form Five in 2003, Botswana Athletics Association called me for out of school camps and that was when I started to take it seriously.

I started competing in regional competitions. In 2006, International Athletics Federation (IAF) called me to train at their high performance training center at Dakar in Senegal.

Why did you choose to be a runner?

Athletics is the number one sport in the world followed by football. In football, when you win as a team you share the prize money while in athletics the money is all mine (laughing).

There are also many athletics competitions in a year in different countries and that is why I decided to be a professional runner.

I used to play softball but after one of my teammates got injured I decided to quit and focused on athletics.

What is the first thing you do when you wake up?

I run! (laughing). I wake up, take a shower, eat breakfast and go for training.

Is there any athlete who motivates you to do your best during competitions?

There is a lady who makes me take athletics seriously, the American track and field athlete, Allyson Felix.

She is the 2012 Olympic Champion, a three-time World Champion and two-time Olympic silver medalist. She really inspires me.

I always wanted to be a champion like her!

What do you regard as your most memorable race to date?

The World Championships in Daegu 2011 when I won the Gold medal. When approaching the finishing point I really enjoyed the moment.

It was very competitive and I was fit. I was with Felix at the front and I managed to beat her.

What is your favourite part of being on the track?

I enjoy it when I compete with the best athletes and when the fans cheer us on.

Most Batswana used to follow and support football and were not too bothered about other sports codes.

But I made them like athletics and take it into consideration!

I enjoy most when I approach the finishing line because I go all out from 150m. I also enjoy when there is an athlete who gives me competition.

Massive congratulations on being the first athlete from Botswana to qualify for four Olympic Games. How much does this mean to you?

This really means a lot. It shows I am doing something right. I had so many challenges in this career but I remained focused and do what I love most.

I am very thankful to our government, Botswana National Sport Commission, Botswana Olympic Committee, our association for giving me the necessary support to become a professional athlete.

This should be an inspiration to others, especially female athletes, because we go through a lot of challenges. You are expected to be married, have kids – people forget you also have other interests like sports career!

What makes a great athlete?

Discipline, determination, dedication and focus. You must have goals and set targets to achieve them. You have to follow your coach’s instruction.

Growing up, I was very disciplined. I missed out on a lot of things that young people considered ‘cool’.

I did not drink alcohol or smoke. It was only two years back when I could have a glass of wine, drinking not to get drunk.

You should be careful what you eat and drink. You must be disciplined, otherwise your career will be very short!

You mentioned your Gold medal World Championship winning run as your most memorable race. How did it change your life financially, professionally and socially?

My life changed. I was now the country’s diamond, a role model so I had to do things professionally.

I even had to be careful what I shared on social media because now I had a large following, both locally and internationally.

Amantle Montsho

After winning Gold, I had a few endorsements and Nike increased its sponsorship. We have seen a lot of athletes struggling with life after sports so I decided to invest in property with the money I was making from athletics. So far I have six houses in Block 7 Gaborone.

What are the biggest challenges you face as a top athlete in Botswana?

Lack of facilities! Athletics is a big sport and it is high time the country establish a high performance centre.

The other challenge is when you do not deliver as the nation had expected during major competitions.

People will start bashing you and put you under a lot of pressure.

Money and fame often make people lose focus – how do you ensure you are not led into temptation?

Like I said, discipline is important. Refrain from things that will ruin your career. Avoid unnecessary trips and misusing money.

Invest for the future and do not lose focus. In life you should know what you want then it will not be easy for someone to shift your focus.

Just remain humble, respect others and manage your finances well.

How do you relax during the off-season?

I love travelling so I visit my friends in other countries. I also go shopping, especially when I have stress.

I make sure I spend time with my parents and my siblings.

The 2020 Olympics have been postponed until next year due to the Coronavirus pandemic. How is this going to affect your form and what are you going to do to ensure you remain fit?

It is unfortunate that the games are postponed to 2021 due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

I am on form and I was ready to compete. Now facilities, stadiums are closed and we do not have access to the track.

The President has also announced social extreme distancing, which is going to make it difficult to do roam work.

I will be indoor training at my house to keep fit – fortunately I have a gym.

Realistically, what was your target for the Tokyo Olympics?

My target was an Olympic medal. I had trained very hard to win a medal. This was supposed to be my last competition.

I believe I have done my part in sports and it is time to quit. I still have to talk to my coach and see if I will compete next year since I have qualified.

We’ve touched on some of the highs of your career. At the other end of the scale, what has been your most disappointing experience as an athlete?

Eish, the doping case! I tested positive for a prohibited substance methylhexaneamine at Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

That was the worst experience I have ever had. In 2015 I received a two-year ban.

I couldn’t go home because I was afraid; my father was very angry. I also had to hide from the media and the public.

I will be forever grateful to the government for engaging a psychologist!

I stayed at the hotel for two year and I even changed my number. I couldn’t go to the mall or interact with people.

At some point I thought of quitting. The psychologist advised me not to and I also believed I can bounce back.

After three months I started training on my own because one of the conditions was that the association was not suppose to help me with anything.

I made a great come back and in 2017 I qualified for the World Championships.

How did it happen?

I went to a pharmacy in Gaborone to buy an energy drink. The pharmacist recommended the drink and said it does not have any prohibited substances. I was so depressed.

How do you intend to spend your retirement?

I want to start my own academy. I want to turn one of my houses into an athletics academy.

This is a way of giving back to my country and contributing to athletics development. I was supposed to start athletics coaching course after this year’s Olympics.

And finally, Thank God It’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?

Extreme social distancing. I will be locked in my room.

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A superstar explodes

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A superstar explodes

Born Atlasaone Molemogi, ATI is one of the country’s most gifted singer-songwriters, blessed with a creativity and energy few can match when it comes to live shows.

Sadly, away from the music, the rapper’s turbulent personal life has been slightly less successful.

While he takes conspiracy theories around the dark world to a whole new level, ATI has been fighting demons of his own.

The ‘Khiring Khorong’ hit-maker is now a self-proclaimed recovering drug addict having checked himself into rehab in late 2018.

This week, the rapper invited Voice Entertainment’s SHARON MATHALA to his suburban home in Gaborone to speak about the latest controversies surrounding his career.

The Voice team arrive to find the flamboyant artist, complete with exfoliating face mask, cleaning his room.

Pleasantries are exchanged and the singer seems in high spirits.

Before the interview begins, however, Deputy Sheriffs and a lawyer turn up to slap ATI with summons.

He is in debt but is optimistic he will come back stronger.

In an emotional roller-coaster of an interview, ATI talks about sexual relations, drug abuse and the bitter fall out with his former manager that have led to recent rape allegations.

Q. Thank you for inviting us into your home, how have you been?

I have been good. I have been blessed.

Q. Why did you decide to speak out against your manager? Where you not afraid this would tarnish your brand?

Even more important is protecting the victims who are derailed into thinking that what they are told is A when it is actually B.

So this is more about the victims not me.

Q. But all of this allegations happened under your nose? Did you not notice anything?

I am very observant but with my manager it was like there was an energetic block.

He controlled everything around me.

Even with the people that I interacted with.

He understood my weakness and he played around that.

Q. Oh! What exactly do you mean by ‘he played around your weaknesses’?

I am one open person, I am an open book.

He knew how to play around that because I vested so much power into him.

All my relationships, he went behind my back and intimidated the people.

He had a hold on a lot of people I have tried to get into a relationship with.

Q. What exactly do you mean?

I will tell you something, I have never been in a relationship.

I have tried.

I have even tried to get into a relationship with money.

I did not understand the culture of a relationship and when I did my manager got in the way because you know people are not comfortable about their sexuality.

Q. Why?

I was dealing with abandonment issues.

I was too clingy with who I am trying to love that they don’t even have time to love me back.

My manager intimidated my partners about their sexuality.

This had been going on for too long until I decided that I should go to rehab.

Q. So you checked yourself into rehab, you were not talked into it by family?

Yes. I checked myself into rehab because nobody cared about me.

I looked at myself as worthless.

My level of self-esteem and confidence was so derailed to a point whereby I did not want to be seen.

It got so bad towards the end of last year.

I will tell you something, he painted a picture of a chaotic character.

Q. But trouble seems to follow you. Do you know this?

Yes. Yes I do.

Q. Why?

Most of the time it’s ‘purpose learnt’ it is not poor decision making.

Most of my chaos is orchestrated by people around me.

Even before the drugs I know they planned all of the bad things against me.

A lot of things have happened and were meant to happen to me.

Q. What do you mean?

The drug industry in Botswana is (….breathes heavily) I am lucky to be alive. I am lucky to still be sane.

Q. When did the drugs start?

In 2015.

Q. What made you dependent on drugs?

I was not dependent on drugs.

I tried to escape the reality of pain.

The painful part was coming face to face with drastic measures afterwards.

I had to cut the cord with everyone I know and evaluate the relationships that surrounded me, from work to love relationships.

When I did this, I found out that most of my relationships were orchestrated with malice by the one person I gave enough power to destroy me.

Q. Please elaborate further and make it clearer for me, what do you mean by this?

Circumstances always turned around to make me seem crazy.

I started questioning my reality and during this time I did not want to talk to nobody.

I was literally down on my knees and I look back now and say I am lucky to be alive.

Q. Do you think the drugs played a big part in your problems?

I don’t blame anything or anyone.

I just believe things happened the way they were supposed to.

I will tell you I am the best version of myself right now.

If happiness was to be gauged from 1 to 10, I am at a 5.

Q. Have you ever been at 10?

No. I have never been on a 10 but it is my first time at 5, that I will tell you!

Q. What drug was it?

I would not want to say.

I will tell you though that it was a drug that made me calm. Is it important to know?

Q. Why were you missing shows?

I was not well.

I couldn’t.

I was mentally unstable.

Wa nkutlwa gore ka reng? (do you understand what I am saying?) Mental health is very important.

When they found out that I was on to what they were doing with all these rapes, they literally tried to make me go crazy!

Q. Did they buy the drugs for you?

No! I bought the drugs for myself.

I mean I was addicted, I still am but I am recovering, you know what I am saying.

I am recovering from a mental problem.

Q. But your fans did not know all of this.

They were screaming your name and you did not come.

That is the thing, that is what I am telling you that [screaming fans] it is just not enough.

I was losing my mind.

I mean if I missed a show because I broke my leg it would be easier to understand, right?

What would you rather lose, your mind or your leg? The mind is everything.

Q. Are you in debt?

I am still trying to pay off all that I owe especially from last year when there was a lot of chaos.

Just right now you saw that I got a summons but I don’t live life by sulking.

I take it with grace and I am going to move through this.

Q. If you could undo one thing, what would it be?

I would not change a thing.

I would not because the level of understanding, what I like and what I don’t like, has heightened right now.

I understand now what it is that can advance me from point A to point B and I do understand what manipulation is.

I have lots of knowledge right now that I would have not known if I had not gone through what you say is a negative space in my life.

I mean I have tried to commit suicide but I am still here.

Q. You attempted suicide?

What I mean is that I now understand what a child who says I am going through depression means on a personal level because I have been through that.

I now understand that it is not the drugs we should be fighting, the fight is to help one accept what one does not want to accept.

It is what I call healing the inner child.

Q. Any plans of having a family of your own in the future?

Depends on what you mean by family. I don’t know what family is.

Q. Children of your own?

Umm, NO!

Q. Do you have a financial advisor?

No but I have had a financial restrainer and that was my mom.

She used to co sign with me.

Q. Have you ever been broke?

I define poverty on a spiritual level.

I have been poor with money in my pockets.

That whole time of ‘Khiring Khiring Khorong’ what I did at the time was the most suicidal thing ever.

I kept myself busy as opposed to dealing with what I was going through.

Same as taking the drugs; I always felt guilty for taking drugs because I felt bad when taking drugs and then coming to have a conversation with you.

I knew that was not me. It ate at my spirit.

But all I want to do is do good.

Q. And finally, Thank God It’s Friday, what will you be up to?

Probably in the studio making music.

*ATI’s manager refused to comment on the allegations against him.

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