When he flopped in Tokyo this week, the disappointment was acute because many Batswana across the country had hoped that Nijel Amos would repeat his feat when he won silver in the London Olympics in 2012 but he fumbled on the last lap when it mattered the most.
Amos began brilliantly in Tokyo earlier by winning his heat with a time of 1:45.04 seconds, a performance that booked him a spot in the semi-finals. It is in the semi-finals where all his supporters (the whole nation) initially had their hopes waning when Amos fell in the last 200m.
The Marobela-born athlete was nevertheless reinstated to compete in the finals following Team Botswana’s protest after it appeared that he had been tripped. That came as relief to many Batswana to whom hope for a medal in the men’s 800m was restored.
Amos came into the Tokyo Olympics men’s 800m final as the favourite to win because he currently holds a world leading time of 1:42.91 seconds. However, this was turned on its head when he finished eighth in 1:46.41 seconds, way behind the winner Emmanuel Korir of Kenya with a time of 1:45. 06 seconds.
In postulating “several reasons” why Amos flopped so badly, Sports and Science lecturer at UB, Dr Tshephang Tshube said the first one might be due to the fact that he did not have enough competition time prior to the Olympics as he had only two races.
“Competing in multiple competitions gives confidence as it allows an athlete to gauge his/her performance and competence prior to a major championship.”
Dr Tshube added that Amos’s qualification for the finals was “very” questionable. “That is how he raced in the semi-finals, then falling and being allowed to compete in the finals,” he said. “That had a strong effect on him, and for him to bounce back from something required strong mental strength as well as a lot of support.”
The sports scientist also thinks Amos failed because he succumbed to pressure. “The Olympics are not a joke,” he noted. “For an athlete to compete and actually get a medal, he or she has to have significant mental and physical strength.
“It is possible that there was also a lot of pressure on Amos, he being the one who won the country’s first Olympic medal and being expected to win a second one. He had a realistic chance to win it, but that puts a lot of pressure on athletes. It has happened with other athletes before when the pressure became be too much to bear.”
Dr Tshube said the Botswana National Olympic Committee must regulate how performance incentives are offered to athletes because the incentives can make them to lose focus. “There was a lot of confusion in the build-up to the Games when corporates like Choppies and Debswana came on board to offer incentives,” he noted. “ That needs to be controlled and the incentives need to come way early before the Games so that athletes may have enough time to process them and focus on the Games because when they come in the middle of the competition, it confuses them.”