On the track of Budapest's Nemzeti Atlétikai Központ, Letsile Tebogo became the first African sprinter to stand on the 100m podium at a World Athletics Championship on Sunday August 20. Even Franky Fredericks, despite his immense track record, has always missed the step. Here are 5 things you need to know about the new phenomenon of African athletics and certainly the future star of the world's track and field.
First African on the World 100m podium
Letsile Tebogo caused a sensation in Sunday's 100m final at the Budapest World Championships. The Botswana native finished runner-up to American Noah Lyles. A first for Africa. His elders on the continent have always finished 4th or 5th. Even the greatest of them all, Franky Fredericks. The Namibian has been on the podium several times in the 200m and even runner-up in the 100m, but never in a World Athletics Championship. At just 20 years of age, the Botswanan is writing a fine page in the history of African sprinting.
Four world junior medals
Letsile Tebogo's ascent has been meteoric. But the Botswana native is no UFO. He has been on the circuit for three years. In 2021, at the World Junior Championships in Nairobi, he had already shown the promise of a future star of African sprinting. In the Kenyan capital, he won the 100m world championship title and the 200m silver medal. A year later in Cali (Colombia), the native of Kanye, a town in southern Botswana, repeated his performances. He was once again world champion in the 100m and runner-up in the 200m. His times are breathtaking: at under 20, he runs the 100m under 10 seconds (9s91, world junior record) and the 200m under 20 seconds (19s96).
Faster than Bolt at 20
At just 20, his times are incredible. By way of comparison, Usain Bolt, the greatest phenomenon in the history of sprinting, hadn't managed to run the 100m under 10 seconds until he was 21. World vice-champion 2023 with a time of 9s88, Letsile Tebogo has more than 5 sub-10-second times. The ambitious youngster wants to reach the level of the Bolt legend. "It's time for Africa to take control of sprinting on the international stage", he said back in 2022.
Best African ever in the 200m
Letsile Tebogo had already caused a sensation on July 23, prior to his silver medal in the 100m at the Budapest World Championships. At the Diamond League in London, the Botswanan clocked a superb time in the 200m to finish second (19s50), still behind Noah Lyles (19s47). No African had ever run so fast on the half-lap. The Botswanan thus wiped Franky Fredericks' record (19s70), set in 1996 at the Atlanta Olympics, off the books.
Family, soccer and retraining
Born in Kanye in southern Botswana on June 7, 2003, Letsile Tebogo was raised by a single mother with his younger brother. Like virtually every kid on the continent, he first teased the round ball before returning to the slopes for good. "When I was a kid, I used to run in front of people, then I went to play soccer. It wasn't a good time for me because I was always benched, which frustrated me. That made me decide to go back to athletics because I saw that it allowed me to put food on the table for my family," he recounted in remarks relayed by Runblogrun.