The Botswana National Stadium will come alive on Saturday, when some of the top Athletics stars line up to compete at the Gaborone International Meet.
With some of the athletes competing in their first races of the season, the meet promises to be a very thrilling one, going by the calibre of athletes already confirmed by the organisers to participate in it.
2018 Commonwealth Games Champion, Isaac Makwala is undoubtedly the star of the show, making his 2019 entrance with an appearance in the 400m on Saturday. After competing in Gaborone tomorrow, Makwala would switch focus to the Diamond League circuits as he prepares for the All African Games in Morocco and the World Championships in Doha.
Although Makwala (lane 6) is the favourite, he would square up against his compatriot, Babaloki Thebe (lane 4) the two-time 400m African champion who himself is a big contender, and would be eager to catch up with Makwala and not allow him dictate the pace of the men’s 400m heat 1.
While Makwala might not be a bit sharp being his first race of the season, Thebe who has a Season’s Best (SB) of 45.70s will be hoping he’s back to his best, with concerns over his fitness levels following an injury lay-off.
Although Botswana athletes are expected to dominate the show tomorrow, there are so many good athletes from other countries whose performances on the day would definitely make people take notice.
Nigeria’s Commonwealth Games 4x100m & African Championships 100m Bronze medallist, Joy Udo Gabriel is making her bow on her first ever meet abroad when she files out for the women’s 100m and 200m.
With a Personal Best of 11.42s, Udo-Gabriel is the fastest on the field, however Zambia’s duo of Rhoda Njobvu and Helen Makumba wont be pushovers as they have both run PBs of 11.64s and 11.58s this season.
Jerry Jakpa who made his international appearance for Nigeria last year in Asaba, would also double in two events in Gaborone. In the 200m, Jakpa will be up against Siame who was a finalist at the 2018 African Championships in Asaba.
This season, Siame clocked a time of 20.71s in February at the All Comers meet in Lusaka, before going on to improve on that time with an SB of 20.59s. The Zambian athlete has a PB of 20.18s in the 200m.
In the women’s 400m, African Championships Silver medallist Christine Botlogetswe will lead the lines in Race A, hoping to improve in her season opener of 52.23s at the Grand Prix in Potchefstroom ten days ago.
2018 Nigeria Sports Festival 400m Bronze medallist, Emmanuel Ojeli will be competing in the 400m B final, looking to improve on his PB of 46.98s. Nambia’s Bock Mahmad (46.56s) and Swaziland’s Andile Lusenga (46.43s) are some of the names to watch out for in that race.
South Africa’s Michau Keenan and Lesotho’s Mosito Lehata will be challenging for the top finish in the men’s 100m, with Botswana’s Mothibi Karabo hoping he could transit his country’s success in the quater-mile into the shorter sprints.
The Long Jump, High Jump are the only two field events happening at the meet. Also included are the relay events, with the Botswana National team using the event to prepare for the World Relays next month.
All three Making of Champions (MoC) athletes: Udo-Gabriel, Jakpa and Ojeli are the first Nigerian athletes to participate in the Gaborone International Meet.
Although it might still be early in the season, there is no doubt the Gaborone International meet will produce great performances to lay the foundation for the 2019 Athletics season.