Gaborone – Sports fans will remember how Isaac Makwala ran a lone race in the rain at London Stadium to qualify for World Championship 200m final in 2017.
This was after the 200m and 400m specialist missed the main race because of illness.
The Motswana sprinter gave the world many great memories on the track, including that 200m solo run.
Makwala wanted to bow out of the international stage with a medal-winning performance at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
The man from Botswana finished seventh in the 400m final. Make no mistake, it was an impressive performance even if he did not make the podium: he is 35-years-old, had not raced much because of COVID-19, and prepared for the Olympics with inadequate training facilities.
But he was not done. There was still the 4x400m relay, a race which provided the golden generation of Botswana sprinting with an opportunity at international glory after nearly a decade of being the nearly men of the track.
And what a show they put on, taking bronze to become the only team from Africa to take a relay medal at the Games.
“I had just competed in the 400m final and my coach advised me that I needed to rest the following day in preparation for the relay which was two days away. But I told him that I had to continue training,” Makwala recalls.
The team of Makwala, Zibane Ngozi, Bayapo Ndori and Baboloki Thebe ran a disciplined 4×400 to finish third and in the process set a new a new African record (2 minutes 57.27 seconds). This was the first time since 2004 that an African tea, won a medal in the 4x400m since 2004.
“That’s a big achievement for us; Botswana and Africa. I’m really happy for the team because it was a collective effort. Despite disruptions of our training schedule due to restrictions related to COVID-19 we really worked hard, and our efforts paid off. At least we are going home with a medal and though I had wanted to win a medal as at personal level, I’m’ happy that since this is my last appearance at the Olympics, I’m not going back home empty handed,” Makwala told The Southern Times Sport.
Makwala is in all likelihood Botswana’s greatest ever sprinter, taking gold major international meets such as the All-Africa Games, the African Championships and the Commonwealth Games.
Sports Minister Tumiso Rakgare has been effusive in his praise of the relay team: “This was a great achievement at the just ended Tokyo 2020 Olympic games. You bring home a bronze medal and achieved other milestones such as an African Record for the 4x400and appearance in finals.”
Now Makwala will criss-cross Botswana in a farewell tour organised by a committee led by Christopher Nyanga.
“Although details are still to come, we are thinking big, along the lines of the kind of send-off that gets given to big people like our former presidents when they leave office. Many of you would recall how people show appreciation to them, whether its financial or in kind,” said Nyanga.
Former President Ian Khama has said he will bestow a gift of some of his prized cattle to Makwala and his medal-winning relay team colleagues.
“Our team led by one of our national icons, Isaac Makwala, took and led after the first lap as we all witnessed. The team did us proud winning the bronze medal but almost a silver. I wish to show my joy and appreciation by giving them each a cow,” Khama said on his Facebook page.
Scores of companies and individuals have also pledged to shower gifts on the team and other members of the contingent from Botswana that did national duty in Tokyo.