Botswana’s track and field community is divided over whether Botswana’s fastest man in the 100m race Letsile Tebogo should turn professional or move to the United States of America (USA) where he has been offered a scholarship, the Business Weekly Sports can reveal.
Speaking at a press conference of the World Junior Championships (Cali22) last week, Tebogo said he was planning to move to the USA for studies. “Currently I’m working on going to college,” he said answering to a question about whether he intended to turn pro or seek an opportunity in college. “I’ve been to the USA a couple of times and the best school by far is the University of Oregon. By the middle of September I’ll be there.”
This is the athlete who on Tuesday successfully defended his World U20 100m title at Cali 22. Tebogo went into the race a favourite and gave an eye-popping performance of sprinting to smash his world U20 100m record and retain his title in 9.91 (0.8m/s), leaving many in awe and asking for more. But there are mixed views after his performance and announcement to move to US. Former track athlete who has now become a coach (hurdles), Daniel Lagamang, is against the idea of Tebogo moving to America. “In USA he is going to compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which is an amateur league that does not allow athletes to compete in the professional race,” Lagamang said in an interview.
“If they do, they do not get any prize money. The NCAA has very tight financial regulations. So moving to the USA makes it completely useless for him for the next four years because he will not be able to make any good money.” His view is that Tebogo should turn into a professional athlete and pursue his studies in Botswana. “The NCAA will be a complete waste of time,” Lagamang emphasised. “Even some American athletes do not compete in it,” he noted. “He must just stay in Botswana because Tebogo’s coach, Kebonyemodisa Dose Mosimanyane, is the best thing to ever happen to him and the kind of training they do here will not happen in the US.”
But another former track athlete, renowned sports administrator Tsoseletso Magang (women’s long record holder), is in support of Tebogo moving to the US. “He is being offered a scholarship to go and study in there and you cannot let go of such opportunity as an athlete,” said Magang. “We may have good coaches in Botswana but we do not have the infrastructure necessary for the coaches to take our athletes to the next level. Moving to the US is a great idea that will see Tebogo being trained by top coaches at top facilities. It is an opportunity that comes once in a lifetime and he should definitely go for it.”
Magang holds that staying in Botswana is not a great idea for Botswana’s latest sports sensation because the country has over the years failed to devise talent developmental programmes for athletes. “We do not have clear pathways or programmes that indicate what athletes need to do to transition from junior to senior levels,” she argued. “We just depend on luck and Tebogo should not stay here because he will be forced to go the way of others like Isaac Makwala and take it upon himself to further is career.”
She took the opportunity to call on the government to invest in sports infrastructure. “We have hosted a number of international games but have not upgraded our infrastructure,” Magang said. “But we expect athletes to stay in Botswana and do well, which is impossible. It is high time the government seriously invested in our sports if we are to keep athletes training in Botswana. Failure to invest in sports by the government is also confining our coaches to the developmental level. Look at the likes of Dose Mosimanyane and Justice Dipeba. They are producing top athletes but they cannot grow because we don’t invest in infrastructure and them.”
Meanwhile, Lecturer in the Sports and Science Department with University of Botswana, Dr. Tshephang Tshube, once told Business Weekly Sports that it is advisable for Botswana National Sports Commission and Botswana National Olympic Committee to commit to supporting Tebogo in order for the athlete to continue training in Botswana. “He won global medals training here with local coaches,” Dr Tshube pointed out. “This is an opportunity for Botswana to (build) additional athletes and coaches’ infrastructure. They will need sports psychologists, nutritionists and sport doctors.”
This is the man who has advised Tebogo to remain focused and to guard against external forces disturbing his career. “That is because a small percentage of athletes winning at World Athletics U20 Championships go on to win at the Olympics as they do not transition to senior level,” he noted. “They quit the sport due to burnout or they are de-selected.”