This is Deji Ogeyingbo’s preview of the 2023 Botswana Golden Grand Prix on April 29, 2023. This meet will be incredible!
Five things to watch out for ahead of the 2023 Botswana Golden Grand Prix on April 29
The world Athletics Continental Gold tour meet will make a stop in sub-Saharan Africa this weekend in Gaborone, the capital city of Botswana, and a host of high-profile sprinters will turn up to light up the track as the hope to get their season underway.
Many of these stars will be racing for the first time in Africa as the likes of 100m World Silver medallist Marvin Bracy, multiple Olympic medallists Kirani James, and US Superstar Sha’Carri Richardson will look to produce some fast times as they look to move to the top of the rankings in their respective events.
Here are some of the talking points ahead of the highly anticipated Grand Prix in Gaborone.
Ferdinand Omanyala faces the first real test of the season.
If one sprinter hasn’t been flustered on his way to breaking the glass ceiling about African Sprinter, it is Ferdinand Omanyala. Since his breakthrough year in 2021, in which he became the first Kenyan to qualify for the semis of the men’s 100m at the Olympics, he has gone on to become the African Champion and Commonwealth Games Champion while lowering the African Record to 9.77s.
Heading into this weekend’s meet in Gaborone, Omanyala leads the pack of elite sprinters as the fastest in the field in the men’s 100m. World Silver medalist Marvin Bracy enters the meet with a Personal Best of 9.85s and is more accomplished on the world stage than Omanyala. World and Olympic 200m silver medallist Kenny Bednarek is stepping down from his usual signature event to race the 100m.
Ferdinand Omanyala takes 60m win, photo by Meeting Hauts-de-France Pas-de-Calais
Then there is the home favorite and the new kid on the block, Letsile Tebogo. The world U20 Champion beat Omanyala over the 200m at the African Championships in Mauritius last summer and will be pumped up to have a go at him in the shorter distance.
The last time Omanyala met this level of cast outside a major championship was at the Kip Kieno classic in September 2021 when he ran the African Record and lost to Treyvon Bromell on home soil. So far this year, the Kenyan can only boast of outrunning a crocked Marcel Jacobs during the indoor season. Having won by a canter at the ASA Grand Prix in the last couple of weeks, this will provide the sternest test for him.
Sha’Carri Richardson, the star attraction in the absence of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce
Very few athletes in athletics bring with them the sort of buzz Sha’Carri Richardson does to Track and Field. Her aura is filling to the point the announcement of her participating in this meet caused a stir in the track world. All of that wouldn’t matter if she doesn’t match the hype with a proper display in the 200m this weekend.
The last time Richardson graced the track, she blazed to an astonishing 10.57s (+4.1) at the Miramar Invitational. The American will look to lower her Personal Best of 22.00. Whether she faces strict competition in the likes of 100m African Champion Gina Bass and her countrywoman Dezerea Bryant remains to be seen.
Sha’Carri Richardson, 100m,
USATF Outdoor Track and Field Championships held at Hayward Field, University of Oregon, June 23-26, 2022, photo by Kevin Morris
All eyes will be fixed on her this weekend, and her performance will draw attention to the wider audience. These are the sort of star attractions that makes the sport intriguing. The unpredictability, effervescence, and razzmatazz. Richardson is a whole package, and Botswana will have the luxury of hosting her.
One last dance for Isaac Makwala on home-soil
If one athlete put Botswana on the athletics map in the last decade, it has to be Isaac Makwala. And while he has ushered in a new train of athletes from the Southern African nation that are sure to win laurels for them in the future, he will take to the track in the men’s 400m this weekend.
Familiar and newer foes await him. Sports doesn’t care for a swansong, and judging by recent performances, Makwala isn’t the favorite to win the race. Younger athletes like Bayepo Ndori, Muzala Samukonga, Luengo Scotch, Zakhiti Nene, and Lythe Pillay have all run comfortably 44s/45s in the last year and have shown massive consistency.
Isaac Makwaala, London 2017, photo by Mike Deering /The Shoe Addicts,
Samukonga, with a PB of 44.66, is just 20 and is the African and Commonwealth Games Champion, while Ndori was part of the Botswana quartet that one 4x400m bronze at the Tokyo Olympics. The most accomplished runner in the 400m field is multiple Olympic and world champion Kirani James. The Grenadian holds a 19-1 lead in their head-to-head in their meetings over the last decade, and this might offer Makwala the chance to get one over James, at least on home soil.
Whatever happens, it’s been a glowing career for Makwala on and off the track as he has elevated athletics to another and been a great ambassador of the sport to his people. This will be a fitting last dance for him.
Andre De Grasse looks to bounce back after disappointing 2022
Andre De Grasse, who is Canada’s most decorated Olympian, is looking to make amends for what was a disappointing 2022 by his standards. He failed to make the final of the men’s 100m at last year’s world championships and did not start the 200m. In fact, he never ran under 10s and 20s for the 100m/200m all through 2022.
De Grasse has settled in his new base in Orlando, Florida, where he’s working with his new coach John Coghlan as he looks to get back to running fast and potentially get on the podium at the world championships this summer in Budapest.
Andre De Grasse (CAN) takes gold in 4x100m over Marvin Bracy (USA), photo by Kevin Morris
He ran a modest race at the Tom Jones Memorial, finishing fifth over 100m. Now in Gaborone, the Olympic 200m champion will face familiar opponents in Alex Ogando, Jerome Blake, and Aaron Brown over the half-lap. Then there is Joseph Fahnbulleh, who he beat to Gold at the Tokyo Olympics. The Liberian has run 9.98s over the 100m this year.
This will be a very boot-faced test for De Grasse, and a win here will put him on the right trajectory ahead of getting back on the podium this summer.
Ese Brume gets her Long Jump season underway.
There is a small argument that Ese Brume might just be one of the most successful Long jumpers to come out of the African Continent. Her accolades speak volumes, so she is the star attraction in the field events going into the Grand Prix.
Ese Brune, 2022 African Championships, photo by Deji Ogeyingbo
Brume is surely one of the biggest names to join the elite field as she will come up against Marthe Koala, which snagged her off her African title last year (although she wasn’t present). It offers her a chance to get her season started and steal a march on her African rival early in the season.