Letsile Tebogo: Rising 100m star draws Usain Bolt comparisons after setting another world record in winning U20 gold

The 19-year-old sprinter from Botswana has broken the U20 100m world record for the third time this year. Who is the under-20 champion?

By Olympics.com
Picture by Fredrick_Omondi

Letsile Tebogo has done it again.

Botswana's rising sprint star smashed his own Under-20 world record clocking 9.91 in the 100m on Tuesday evening (2 August) on his way to winning gold at the 2022 World Athletics U20 Championships in Cali, Colombia.

The 19-year-old could have gone even faster but was coasting through the final 20m, immediately drawing comparisons to Jamaican track legend Usain Bolt who celebrated early when he won the first of his eight Olympic gold medals at Beijing 2008 in a then world record time of 9.69 seconds.

"The statement was to come out and enjoy the race. If somebody took it as disrespect, I'm really sorry," said Tebogo to World Athletics.

He wanted to remind everyone watching at home "what Usain Bolt did back in the day".

"He is my idol, the person I look up to."

Could he have run faster? Absolutely. Tebogo thinks that a 9.80 would have been realistic.

"We have more races to come, we did not want to go that far," said Tebogo. "This is my year as a junior, we have to leave (the record) here for the next generation to come and break it."

Tebogo had improved the U20 world record to 9.94 in the heats of the senior World Championships last month in Eugene, after he had set the mark at 9.96 on 30 April at the Gaborone International Meet.

At the 2021 World Athletics U20 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya, he became the first athlete from Botswana to win gold in the 100m on a global stage. He also picked up a silver in the 200m.

Tebogo is expected to be one of the names to watch at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Let's take a closer look at the talented African sprinter.

Tebogo: It all started with football

It all started with football for the young African. At the age of six, he was already a well-rounded footballer and sprinter.

After injuries hampered his football career, he opted to focus solely on track.

"I used to run past people and won medals. I also played football. Every time though I went to play football I was being benched,” he explained his other motivation to focus on track instead of football in an interview with Runblogrun.com.

[This] made me frustrated...and prompted my decision to go back to athletics as I saw [that] I am able to put food on the table for my family from that," added the runner whose single mother Seratiwa struggled to raise him and his younger brother.

At the 2016 Botswana Primary Schools Sport Association championships, he won the 100m, 200m, and the 4x100m relay, earning his first call-up to the national team.

Then aged 13 he went on to claim the 200m bronze and helped his team to the 4x100m relay silver at the Confederation of Schools Sports Association of Southern Africa Championships in Namibia.

Tebogo: Consistency is key

Tebogo said that he “didn’t take sprints seriously until 2019” when he raced his first major 100m in 10.68 and clocked 21.12 in the 200m.

"For a while, I didn't pay more attention to athletics until about 2018-2019 when I realised I could go professional with it," Tebogo said.

He bettered his time at the world U20 event in Nairobi.

Tebogo then picked up where he left off in 2021 when he opened his season with a national 100m record of 10.08 at the Botswana Athletics Association Championships in February.

His 9.96 run at the end of April, which took 0.01 off Travyon Bromell’s world U20 record from 2014, earned him a ticket to the World Athletics Championships in Oregon.

"The motivation to get into athletics was from watching the big guys like Isaac Makwala, Karabo Sibanda and Nijel Amos," explained Tebogo.

"However, I just really wanted some change in the country, so I had to do something different from the big guys, that’s why I opted to compete in the 100m and 200m."

Tebogo's favourite event is the 200m

Tebogo enjoys the longer dash event more than the 100m, and his target is to join the sub 20 club.

He was disappointed when he finished second behind Nigeria’s Udodi Onwuzurike in the 200m last year in Kenya, and he now plans to sign off as a junior with a sprint double at the U20 Worlds in Cali.

His personal best in the 400m is 46.09 from this January.

Tebogo: The future

The U20 world champion is the first runner from Botswana ever to win a 100m event on a global stage.

He is still only the second man after London 2012 Olympics silver medallist Nijel Amos to secure a gold medal in the World U20 Athletics Championships.

Tebogo is now the second sprinter to break the 10-second barrier after American Brommel.

USA's Matthew Boling ran a 9.98 in 2019 when he was also 18 but it didn’t go down in the history books because of the tailwind.

Tebogo and his idol Usain Bolt

The fastest man in history is eight-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt who ran 9.58 at the 2009 World championships in Berlin.

And nothing excites the rising star more than being referred to as a world record holder like the “legendary Usain Bolt”, who broke the world record when he was 23.

The two have never met,

"It would be a very great pleasure to meet him."

The comparisons between the two have only just started....

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