Letsile Tebogo on his way to 200m victory at the Continental Tour Gold meeting in Gaborone (© Roger Sedres)
Letsile Tebogo ensured that the Botswana Golden Grand Prix ended on a high for home fans as the 19-year-old stormed to a 200m PB of 19.87 (-0.3m/s) to win the final individual race of the World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting in Gaborone on Saturday (29).
Botswana's world U20 100m record-holder had to settle for second place in an earlier race over the shorter distance, but that proved to be the perfect warm up as he returned to the track an hour later to take 0.09 off his previous best of 19.96 that he set when securing silver at the World U20 Championships in Cali last year.
Although slightly behind off the bend, Tebogo powered past his rivals down the home straight and didn’t need to dip for the line as he crossed it clear ahead of Canada’s Aaron Brown (20.00) and Liberia’s Joseph Fahnbulleh (20.14).
Building on the 20.00 200m season opener he achieved in Florida earlier this month, it’s a superb start to Tebogo’s senior career as the two-time world U20 100m champion takes a step up.
“In the 200m my body wasn’t responding, but I’m proud of it because it shows me that I can keep pushing forward. At the curve, I was neck-to-neck with Aaron Brown, but in the last 50 metres I had that one last kick and I managed to finish the race,” said Tebogo after his celebrations with fans on his victory lap. “I’m really happy for the crowd, because it shows that Botswana people love sport. They should always come in numbers, so that they can make the sport grow.”
Tebogo clocked a wind-assisted 9.91 (2.3m/s) in the earlier 100m, finishing runner-up to Kenya’s African record-holder Ferdinand Omanyala, who ran 9.78. USA’s Olympic and world 200m medallist Kenny Bednarek, who like Tebogo was racing his first 100m of the season, finished third in 10.02.
Twanisha Terry dipped to victory in the women’s 100m, the 24-year-old – who formed part of USA’s world gold medal-winning 4x100m team in Oregon last year – pipping Egyptian record-holder Bassant Hemida, 11.05 to 11.09 (0.4m/s). USA’s Kiara Parker finished third in 11.16.
The women’s 200m was won by USA’s Kayla White as she held off Sha’Carri Richardson, 22.38 (-0.5) to 22.54. An hour after finishing second in the 100m, Hemida claimed third place over double the distance, clocking 22.75.
Samukonga and Moraa make their mark
Zambia's Muzala Samukonga is known for pushing himself to the limit and the 20-year-old did so again in the 400m in Gaborone, his performance resulting in a big PB of 43.91 – a time that moves him into the top 20 on the world all-time list.
Claiming some notable scalps, Samukonga – who set his previous best of 44.66 when winning gold at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham last year – tired in the closing stages but had built enough of a lead to still win clear ahead of Grenada’s 2012 Olympic champion Kirani James (44.76) and Botswana’s Leungo Scotch, who dipped under 45 seconds for the first time with 44.92.
World 800m bronze medallist Mary Moraa also started her outdoor season in style as she dropped back down to the 400m – her previous specialist distance – and improved to a Kenyan record of 50.44 to win the women’s race.
Moraa, who claimed Commonwealth and Diamond League 800m crowns to go with her world bronze in 2022, opened 2023 by taking on a debut indoor season and she picked up from where she left off outdoors – finishing fast to win by more than half a second ahead of South Africa’s Miranda Coetzee (51.14) and Jamaica’s Candice McLeod (51.17).
The performance bodes well for Moraa during a season in which she aims to build on that world bronze in Budapest. Her previous 400m best was 50.67, achieved at the Diamond League meeting in Brussels in September.
🇰🇪's Mary Moraa storms to a national 400m record at the @GrandPrixBW 🙌— World Athletics (@WorldAthletics) April 29, 2023
50.44 for the win 🔥#ContinentalTourGold pic.twitter.com/m81FyfjndS
USA’s world bronze medallist Trevor Bassitt went into the 400m hurdles as the favourite and he lived up to that billing, but South Africa’s Sokwakhana Zazini ran him close. Zazini, who claimed the African title in Mauritius last year, was narrowly ahead off the final barrier but Bassitt had the more powerful finish and won in 48.43 to Zazini’s 48.58, a PB for the 23-year-old.
Kenya’s world indoor 1500m bronze medallist Abel Kipsang judged his race to perfection to pass his rivals in the closing stages and take the men’s 800m in 1:44.6h, while the women’s race was won by Ethiopia’s Olympic finalist Habitam Alemu in 1:59.35 ahead of South Africa's Prudence Sekgodiso in 2:00.39.
Dendy and Brume soar to success
USA’s Marquis Dendy ended his indoor campaign with a win and he started his outdoor season with one too, as he soared 8.34m to triumph in the men’s long jump. That mark came in the third round and it launched Dendy ahead of Ingar Bratseth-Kiplesund, who improved his Norwegian record to 8.21m in the second round.
It was close for third place, Commonwealth Games champion LaQuan Nairn of the Bahamas securing that spot with a jump of 8.10m, one centimetre farther than USA’s Jarrion Lawson.
Nigeria’s world silver medallist Ese Brume saved her best for last to win the women’s competition as she leapt 6.77m in the final round to replace Burkina Faso’s Marthe Koala in the top spot. Heptathlete Koala improved her national record to 6.69m in the second round and finished in second place.
Leonardo Fabbri led an Italian top two in the men’s shot put, his third-round throw of 21.32m clinching him the win ahead of Zane Weir, whose best of 21.09m came from his final throw. Great Britain’s Scott Lincoln placed third with 20.32m.
In the women’s contest, USA’s NCAA champion Adelaide Aquilla launched the shot 18.53m to win by more than a metre. Britain’s Amelia Strickler was second with 17.24m, while Portugal’s Jessica Inchude also surpassed 17 metres with a best of 17.11m.