Track and field legend Michael Johnson has added his voice to the discussion surrounding Letsile Tebogo, the rising star of Botswana athletics, who recently made headlines by shattering the African record that stood unbroken for 27 years. Despite this remarkable feat at the Diamond League London Meet last Sunday, the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) has chosen not to reward Tebogo, citing their policy that only covers records achieved in specific competitions.
During the thrilling 200m race, Letsile Tebogo, widely regarded as the next Usain Bolt, astounded spectators by breaking the longstanding record (19.68) set by Frankie Fredericks of Namibia at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics final. However, according to the BNSC’s guidelines, rewards are only granted for records achieved in multi-sport competitions such as the Olympic Games and African Games, or in single sport competitions like the African Championships and World Championships in athletics. As a result, Tebogo will not be officially recognized or receive any financial incentive from the national sports governing body for his remarkable achievement.
In contrast, British sprinter Zharnel Hughes, who finished closely behind Tebogo and also broke the national record, was rewarded by his country for his outstanding performance at the same event.
Michael Johnson’s insightful comments have brought attention to the issue of value and representation for athletes competing in various events. The renowned track and field athlete highlighted that Tebogo’s representation in the race held value for his sponsors, who may have received promotional benefits and possibly paid him a bonus for his exceptional performance. Johnson also emphasized that if he win a medal, Botswana would gain value from Tebogo’s accomplishments at the forthcoming Budapest 2023 World Championships.
“This is about value and representation. He was representing his sponsors in that race, and they received the value and are likely paying a bonus,” said Michael Johnson, who ran 19.32 at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games for the then 200m world record. Usain Bolt lowered that mark to 19.30 to win at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
Michael Johnson continued: “Botswana will receive their value at Worlds if he medals there. Zharnel received only $5K from UKA but doesn’t mean others must do it.”
The disparity in reward policies among different countries and sports governing bodies has been a subject of discussion, and Tebogo’s case has brought this matter into the spotlight once again. While some nations choose to reward athletes for their remarkable achievements regardless of the competition, others adhere to specific criteria based on the level and nature of the event.
Despite the absence of an official reward from the BNSC, Letsile Tebogo’s incredible achievement in breaking a long-standing record has not gone unnoticed by the global athletics community. With his previous victory in the World U20 100m title and now breaking the African record, Tebogo’s potential and talent have captivated the world of sprinting, earning him recognition as the next Usain Bolt.
As Letsile Tebogo continues to make strides in his athletic journey, he remains an athlete to watch closely, and his impressive accomplishments are certain to attract further admiration and attention from fans and enthusiasts worldwide.