When Nijel Amos returns to Botswana he is sure of a hero’s welcome. But the biggest cheer of all is likely to come from students and teachers at McConnel College in Tutume village, his former school.
The boy wonder of local athletics is currently with Team Botswana in Johannesburg and is due in Gaborone on Monday. When he does make it back home the man who contributed to the success of the Olympic silver medallist, school coach and geography teacher 36-year-old Kerileng Mafefe, will be amongst the first to greet him.
Speaking to Voice Sports Mafefe said he recognized that the young athlete had talent in 2009 during the BISA national finals while he was still at junior school. He said Nijel’s commitment, dedication and passion for athletics has got him this far.
“When he came here in 2010 I introduced him to three categories of race, the 1500 metres, steeple chase and the 5 000 metres to determine his best event. But he ended up scooping gold in the BISA games in all three categories.
“He was selected for the junior national team to represent the country in Mozambique in the Africa Junior Championship. Last year we did not have games because teachers were on strike, but our team continued to train. I decided to convert him to the 800 metres looking at his performance during the Championship when he got a silver medal, “said Mafefe
He said Amos went to the World Youth Championship last year in France where he took position five. The same year he went to the Commonwealth Youth Games in the UK and won a bronze medal. Mafefe added that whilst he is not a professional coach he has produced good local athletes such as the 2009 BNSC sports person of the year Oarabile Babolai, Yatea Kambepera, and Daniel Lagamang.
He said although Amos is now under the Botswana Athletics Association, he often communicates with his protégé to give him tips in preparation for a race.
His advice now is for Amos to find a manager as he is on the way to becoming a professional athlete.
SILVER STAR SHINES BRIGHT
National icon Nijil Amos already has to deal with the fame his silver medal has brought him, and wonders what it will be like when he returns to Botswana. Speaking in an interview on Wednesday shorty after arriving in Johannesburg, the silver star said that after his success he had not been able to walk freely in London as people wanted to take photos with him and sign autographs.
He said his mobile phone was constantly ringing as callers, many of whom he did not know, added their congratulations. In addition he has to deal with hundreds of friendship requests sent to him via Facebook – so many he does not have time to confirm them.
“A day after the race on Friday I had dinner with Botswana students in London and my team mates sponsored by BNOC. I had a great time there and made a lot of friends especially on the athletics side. I was surprised when I go to the local mall where people recognize me.”
He went on to say: “The mood at Team Botswana is so high and we are having fun as brothers and sisters. I am so happy to have achieved so much, and as a Christian I thank my Lord for it all.”
When asked if he had any romantic interest during his stay in London, he laughed and said for now he is focusing on building his career. He said as he will be going to school, he will balance it with sports. Although he hasn’t definitely decided where to study, he admitted his heart was in USA and that is where he will finally go.
As far as the medal was concerned he said that he knew anything could happen in the finals so he was not surprised about getting the silver. What did surprise him however was time of 1.41.73.
“I never thought I could achieve that in my life,” he said.
It was only when the Botswana flag was raised during the medal ceremony that he realized what he had done in making history for his country, and had to battle back the tears of joy.