Botswana Grand Prix: Five talking points from the Continental Gold tour
The Botswana Grand Prix, which took place in Gaborone over the weekend, had it all. Fireworks, an almost sold-out stadium, and a star-cast of runners who ran various Personal Bests, World Leads, and National Records.
Letsile Tebogo sends the home fans into a frenzy mood with his win over the 200m, new sensation Muzala Samukonga destroyed the 400m field, while Mary Moora showed why she’s the next big quarter-miler to come out of Kenya.
1. Letsile Tebogo is better suited to run the 200m over the 100m for now
While one star in Isaac Makwala was fading into retirement after he finished outside the Top 3 in the men’s 400m, Botswana can hold their head high that they’ve got Letsile Tebogo, which is gradually dominating proceedings at the elite level after his exploits in the Junior ranks.
Here in Gaborone, Tebogo once again proved why he is suited to run the 200m than the 100m for now. The world U20 record holder in the 100m took on African and Commonwealth Games Champions Ferdinand Omanyala and came out scathed. It was his second straight loss at that point prior to him racing the 200m.
Tebogo’s style of running draws similarities with Usain Bolt, and because of his beam pole-like nature, he struggles to get out of the blocks quickly compared to his counterparts. He was able to get away with it during his junior days. At the professional level, he will most likely get punished. And against an established runner like Omanyala, it was apparent he ran out of steam once the Kenyan was ahead of him. Nothing proper coaching can’t brush up, but he will have to get it with some of the best.
An hour later, Tebogo showed why he is a force to reckon with over the 200m> less we forget he won the African title last summer. Being able to beat Joseph Fahnbulleh and Aaron Brown, both of whom are both Olympic Games finalists over the distance, speaks volumes of his talent in the half-lap. But if the Botswanan is to challenge on both fronts in the future, a drastic change needs to be made to his coaching set-up.
2. Muzala Samukonga is exceeding expectations.
What a talent we have on our hands! Zambia’s Muzala Samukonga performance in Gaborone can only be encapsulated in a few words. “Stretching yourself to the limits”. In the real sense, that’s what elite sport is all about. Going beyond limitations to reach new heights. And in an event like the 400m, which is believed by many to be the most difficult sprint (largely because of the toll it takes on an athlete’s body), breaking new bounds is meant for some selected few.
Samukonga takes the African Champs 400 meters, photo by Deji Ogeyinbgo
In Gaborone, Samukonga once again showed why he is gradually etching his name as an athlete that leaves it all on the counter. At 20, it is such a signature move that has seen him become African and Commonwealth Champion.
The Zambian scorched to a massive PB of 43.91s to win a very strong field that included multiple Olympic and World medallist Kirani James in the men’s 400m. And as expected, despite being tied with the rest of the chasing pack around the 300m, Samukonga kicked on the home straight and left his rivals in his wake.
At this point, he’s surged into the top 20 of the all-time fastest runners, and judging by his meteoric rise in the last two years, there is a distinct possibility that he will have a big say in Budapest this summer.
Another yo-yo season is in the works for Sha’Carri Richardson
Another race for Sha’Carri, another reason to doubt Sha’ Carri Richardson. After she made the track world wax lyrical about her 10.57s windy display over the 100m in early April, here was a chance for her to keep growing ahead of the US trials.
Sha’Carri Richardson, USATF Outdoor Track and Field, Championships held at Hayward Field, University of Oregon, June 23-26, 2022, photo by Kevin Morris
Granted, Richardson hasn’t been the most unique 200m runners, as she boasts a PB of 22.00, but the way she capitulates in the first half of the half-lap is outrageous. She finished second in 22.54s, behind compatriot Kayla White. For someone who is touted to challenge the Jamaican ladies on both fronts, it’s looking like she would have another yo-yo season. Hopefully, she picks a good moment to come good later in the year.
Is this a typical Andre De Grasse early-season blip, or does the downward spiral continues?
Talking about coming good in the summer, one athlete that has been known to be a championship runner is Andre De Grasse. The Canadian sprinter lined up for his first 200m race of the year, and typical of him, he faded into seventh place to finish with a time of 20.41s.
Never in the history of De Grasse’s career has he started the season well. That’s because he usually kicks off his training in January, unlike his counterparts, who start off in October/ November. On the flip side, he has never finished seventh in his opening 200m race. 1st in 2016 and 2017 and 2nd in 2018 were his positions.
Andre De Grasse anchors Canada to a brilliant 4x100m relay gold, photo by Kevin Morris
It’s early April, and De Grasse is going through many changes in his career. The biggest of them all is moving to Orlando, Florida, where he’s working with his new coach John Coghlan. Last year was a disaster for him, too. He didn’t make the 100m final and pulled off the 200m. The Olympic Champion, however, anchored Canada to a 4x100m victory in Oregon last year.
It might be too early to call it a blip, but there seems to be a pattern from last year. But like his running style, he’s experienced enough to know when to condition his body to be ready for major championships. The question remains can he do it this year, again?
Mary Moora has long-term potential.
It’s been eons since we last saw a really good 400m/800m runner. In the span of two years, the universe has given us Athing Mu and now Mary Moora. The Kenyan is ridiculously good, as seen with her race over the 400m in Gaborone.
The Commonwealth and Diamond League 800m champion picked up from where she left off indoors as she scorched to a new PB of 50.44 to win the women’s 400m, beating South Africa’s Miranda Coetzee (51.14) and Jamaica’s Candice McLeod (51.17). The win was as dominant as it could get and it shows how much work she’s put into her craft since her breakthrough season last year.
Mary Moora won the gold at the Commonwealth Games 800m, taking the first medal over Keely Hodgkinson, photo by English Athletics
Now that we’ve gotten her precociousness out of the way, making a decision on which event to focus on at the world championships will be key. The competition over the 800m isn’t as stiff as in the 400m. Then again, the women’s quarter-miler field will have the defending champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo out this year. It’s a good headache most athletes want to have. Being spoilt for choice. In the end, Moora’s potential to be a big star in the future is obvious to see.