The world of sports has icons whose journey to greatness can only be described as meteoric. Letsile Tebogo, a young sprint sensation from the principal town of BaNgwaketse, Kanye, which lies 83 kilometres south-west of Gaborone, is undoubtedly one such athlete.
His rise to stardom has been nothing short of electrifying, leaving athletics fanatics awestruck and his competitors equally amazed. According to Letsile’s mother, Seratiwa Tebogo, as a child her son’s hyperactivity made it challenging to pinpoint his true talents because he dabbled in several activities, with an accent on football.
“His hyperactivity made it hard to tell what he was good at,” Seratiwa told this publication in a telephone interview. “He gave anything that kept him occupied a shot. He was mostly interested in football, but because of his hyperactivity, didn’t like being put on the bench, hence he resorted to athletics where he could channel his boundless energy into sprinting.”
Letsile’s potential in athletics surfaced as he grew up. “During his pre-school holidays he mostly visited my eldest sister who is a school head,” Seratiwa recalled. “One day during sports activities, he went with my sister to the sporting grounds. There was an empty lane and he dashed off to race with students older than, keeping to his lane to the end. The sports master was amazed.”
Seratiwa says every time Letsile entered school sports, in practice or in competitions, he would emerge first. This paid off years later in 2016 when he got a call-up to partake in the Confederation of School Sports Associations of Southern Africa Championships (COSASA) athletics competition in Namibia. He was part of the Botswana Primary School Sports Association (BOPSSA) team.
“It is always difficult to tell if an athlete is going to turn out good when they still growing, but with Letsile I could tell there was a star there,” says Max Ndolo, who was a BOPSA coach at the time. “He was an influential member of our 4x100m relay team that went on to win a silver medal. He won a bronze in the 200m.”
“I could tell he was a talented lad even then”
Another coach, Chilume Ntshwarang, who is mainly tasked with coaching the junior athletics national team, has his own impression of the first time that he saw Letsile on the track. “It was during the COSASA competition in Namibia,” he remembers. “Letsile was in the BOPSA team and I was with the BISA team. I could tell he was a talented lad even then because I saw the antelope in him. Unfortunately, I did not get to work with him at BISA because he got injured during COSASA competitions in 2018 and 2019.”
Ntshwarang would get the chance when he was named in charge of the athletics team that represented Botswana at the World Athletics U-20 Championships that were held in Nairobi, Kenya in 2021. It became a momentous occasion for Botswana when Letsile became the first Motswana to win gold in the 100m on a global stage at the competition where he also picked up a silver in the 200m.
Delighted and amazed
“We were at once delighted and amazed to see one of our own charging ahead of everyone,” Ntshwarang told Business Weekly Sports. “But we were not that surprised because he came to the competition with a very good time in the 100m race.”
Ntshwarang was also in charge of the team when Letsile defended his U-20 100m world title in Cali, Colombia. Just last year alone, Letsile smashed his own Under 20 100m record three times. The Kanye born is so turbo-charged that athlete lowered his own record to 9.91 and still won gold at the 2022 World Athletics U-20 Championships which were held in Cali, Colombia in August 2022. Tebogo had improved the U-20 world record to 9.94 in the heats of the Senior World Championships which were staged in Eugene, USA in July 2022 after setting the mark at 9.96 on 30 April 2022 at the Gaborone International Meet.
This year, Letsile has displayed sheer excellence as he has thus far achieved lightning-fast times of 9.93 seconds in the 100m and 19.50 seconds in the 200m. These remarkable performances not only secured his spot in the Paris 24 Olympics but also saw him break the African Record in the 200m, solidifying his place as the National Record holder.
Now 20 years old, Letsile’s achievements have ushered him into the international spotlight. But inspite of his success, he remains remarkably grounded and humble. “He keeps away from the buzz of the city buzz and seeks refuge in the tranquility of the cattle post where communication networks are limited,” his mother, Seratiwa, joins in the conversation again. “There he unwinds and reconnects with his roots, staying true to his reserved nature.”
Figure of great significance
As happens in almost every sporting code, in Letsile’s remarkable journey, a figure of great significance is present. He goes by the name of Kebonyemodisa ‘Dose’ Mosimanyane, his coach and mentor, fondly known as D O C. Seratiwa says Dose is more than just a coach and has assumed the roles of father, brother, friend and confidant in the life of her son.
“This selflessness and unwavering support have undoubtedly played a pivotal role in keeping the young man focused in the the glitz and glamour of the athletics world,” she notes. With the World Championships approaching, Letsile is poised to make history once again. His relentless pursuit of excellence, coupled with his unmatched talent, has set him on a trajectory to potentially secure Botswana’s maiden medals in the 100m or 200m events. The world watches eagerly as this rising star prepares to cast its brilliance and name on a page in the annals of athletic greatness.