By Bakang Mhaladi
Gaborone - Botswana sport, for the 13th time in just 18 months, was again plunged into mourning as 400m elite athlete, Omphemetse Mokgadi was laid to rest just outside the capital Gaborone on Sunday.
The 400m runner died and collapsed while training at the University of Botswana Stadium in Gaborone last week Monday.
He was preparing for the 2019 World Championships to be held in Doha, Qatar, when he slumped to the ground, and never recovered.
Hundreds of mourners, including fellow athletes turned up to bury the 32-year-old at his home village, Mochudi, 40 kilometres east of Gaborone.
Former teammate and 2018 Commonwealth Games champion, Isaac Makwala, paid a moving tribute to Mokgadi.
"I met him in 2006 and he was a kind person. I worked with him until his untimely passing. We have lost great talent," Makwala said.
Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) president, Thari Mooketsi, said the nation had lost a great athlete, who served with distinction. He said he was made aware of the late Mokgadi's financial struggles in his athletics career.
"I learnt of his challenges very late. As an association, we are faced with difficulties, but we try and assist where we can," Mooketsi said.
African Athletes Journalists Association (AAJA) paid tribute to the late athlete.
“We wish to express our sincere condolences on the passing of your athlete, Omphemetse Mokgadi who was well known for his exploits in the 400m,” AAJA said in a statement to the BAA.
“The Botswana 4x400m team will no longer be the same without him, but we trust your organisation will rise from this tragedy and move forward. We had hoped he will live to play a bigger role in athletics for our beloved continent.”
The deceased was part of the 2008 Olympic Games team, and also represented Botswana at the 2011 All Africa Games in Mozambique. Mokgadi's death brings to three, the number of sportspersons who have died in the last fortnight. Two soccer players, Lovemore Murirwa and Lesego Matoteng, died in separate car crashes early this month.
In June, a marathon runner collapsed during a race, while seven soccer players perished in a car crash on their way to a match in January. Last year, Gofaone Tiro, from Botswana's glamour club, Township Rollers, collapsed and died while training.
Days later, a First Division player, Leatile Setabosigo also collapsed and died while training with his lower division side.