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Ditiro Nzamani has Doha in his sights

DitiroNzamani

The 19-year-old 400m sprinter from Botswana could be heading to the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019, after reaching the qualifying standard at the CAA Yaounde International Grand Prix in Cameroon on 20 July.

In what was his first race outside of Botswana, Nzamani won the 400m at Yaounde’s Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in 45.07, taking more than a second off his previous PB of 46.10 and beating Cameroon’s Sangou Tetndap and Martial Etoa.

“I am very happy,” said an ecstatic Nzamani, who had been trying without success all year to cover one lap of the track within 46 seconds.

“I was under pressure back home because all the good athletes are running 45 seconds, except me,” added Nzamani, who is now Botswana’s third fastest 400m runner in 2019.

Inspired by a champion

Nzamani found out he was fast in his third year of primary school in Botswana.

“When I was in standard three, I was very playful,” he says. “I used to run a lot but I didn’t take athletics seriously.”

That all changed when an African champion sought him out after watching him compete.

“In 2017, Baboloki Thebe came to me and said ‘if you train hard, you can go places’. Everything changed for me then because I had a goal. Now when I go out to train, I know what I am looking for.”

Nzamani soon began racing the 400m and 4x400m in local and regional competitions and gradually improved over time.

Missing out on international age-group competitions – such as the African U20 Championships in Abidjan and the World U20 Championships in Tampere, both of which Botswana withdrew from – did not deter Nzamani.

His dedication eventually won the approval of his parents, who were initially sceptical about his endeavours in athletics.

Nzamani’s rise

Nzamani has improved with every race in 2019.He started his season back in February with 47.33 in Gaborone, then improved to 47.22 in April. At the Botswana Championships in May, he clocked 46.55 in the heats and 46.10 to win the ‘B’final.

After a brief break from racing, he returned to competition last weekend in Yaounde where he achieved the World Championships qualifying mark.

Nzamani’s coach, Ipolokeng Ramatshaba, was bursting with pride.

“We are in the presence of a very talented young man,” said Ramatshaba. “It is easy to work with someone like Ditiro who has the desire to outdo himself. When you give him a programme, he follows it wholeheartedly and this is the result.

“He will be in Rabat in Morocco for the Africa Games in August and who knows, he may produce another personal best.

“Not many athletes from Botswana have qualified for the World Championships in Doha, so Ditiro may be entered into the books. There is still a lot of space for him at this point.”

Member federations will confirm their team selections nearer the time of the World Championships. In the meantime, Nzamani – whose role model is Bahamian Steven Gardiner – is already thinking about his other career goals.

“I want to be good enough to get into the Diamond League, just like other Botswanans before me,” he says. “If I get to run in the World Championships in Doha, my aim will be to achieve the Olympic qualifying standard.”

Helen Ngoh

Courtesy of the IAAF