This year has proven very eventful for Botswana’s athletes as they continued to surprise, delight and impress us all with amazing results. However, events this week around Isaac Makwala upped the ante, following his disqualification from racing on account of ill health.
After vomiting ahead of his 200m preliminaries Monday, the IAAF determined that Makwala was one of several athletes affected by an outbreak of the norovirus. As a result, he was quarantined and missed both his 200m heat and the 400m final, in which he was expected to challenge South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk for the gold medal.
However, despite finally being allowed to race in the 200m final, it was neither Makwala nor Van Niekerk to pick up the gold. It was instead Ramil Guliyev, who won in 20.09 seconds to claim Turkey’s first gold of the championships.
After being granted a time trial in the 200 meters and then advancing to the finals, Makwala remained at the centre of controversy; with one fellow athlete claiming the Botswana athlete had been given an unfair advantage.
Saturday, Aug. 5
Makwala comfortably wins his 400m heat in 44.55 seconds, beating USA’s LaShawn Merritt and Jamal Walton of the Cayman Islands to qualify for the semifinals.
Sunday, Aug. 6
In the 400m semifinal, Makwala went faster – 44.30 seconds to beat Jamaica’s Demish Gaye and American Gil Roberts and reach the final.
Monday, Aug. 7
The controversy begins. Competition organisers issue a statement confirming a number of cases of gastroenteritis reported at the Tour Hotel, one of the official team hotels, and the one in which Makwala was staying. Thirty athletes were said to have been affected by the illness, later confirmed as norovirus.
The IAAF sends a letter to teams at the Tower Hotel, asking them to report “any episodes of diarrhoea and vomiting” and summons them to a meeting. It added that “recommendations from Public Health England say the affected person must remain isolated for 48 hours after the last episode of vomiting or diarrhoea”.
After vomiting in the stadium medical room ahead of his 200m heat, Makwala was given medical dispensation to withdraw from the 200m and was then subject to a 48-hour quarantine rule, thus ruling him out of the final of the 400m, his favoured event.
Tuesday, Aug. 8
Public Health England announces that laboratory results confirmed two (since upgraded to three) cases of norovirus were found in those affected by illness, while a spokesperson for the Tower Hotel insisted it was not the source of the outbreak.
In a statement, the IAAF says Makwala would not participate in the 400m final;
“Isaac Makwala was withdrawn from the men’s 400m (final) due to a medical condition on the instruction of the IAAF medical delegate.”
Despite this, Makwala showed up at London Stadium before the final and insisted he was fit to race. However, video footage shows the 30-year-old being denied access to the warm-up track by security guards; instead, he was escorted to an IAAF office and then back to his team hotel.
Van Niekerk went on to win gold but his special moment was overshadowed by the high-profile omission of his rival. In an interview with the BBC, an inconsolable Makwala claimed he was the victim of “sabotage” and had been fit enough to run, and later went as far as suggesting the situation would have been handled differently had it involved a British athlete.
The IAAF stood by its decision and said in a later statement;
“The team doctor, team leader and team physio had been informed following the medical examination that the athlete should be quarantined for 48 hours and would, therefore, be missing the 400m final on Tuesday.
All the information on the athlete was given to his team leader, doctor and physio the night before. We had no idea the Botswana team did not understand the situation until the athlete turned up at the stadium.”
However, Botswana officials claimed they were not told Makwala could not run and blamed the IAAF for poor communication. There was also dispute over Makwala’s medical tests.
Wednesday, Aug. 9
Tensions appeared to ease after the IAAF accepted an appeal from the Botswana team to allow Makwala to try to qualify for the 200m final on Wednesday night.
The image of Isaac Makwala running alone on a sodden London Stadium track is one of the standout images of the 2017 World Athletics Championships.
His quarantine period ended at 14.00 and he was then cleared to run a solo 200m time-trial in heavy rain, following an examination by the IAAF medical delegate. Running in the same lane he had been allocated for the original heat on Monday, Makwala had to clock 20.53 seconds or less to qualify for the semifinal.
He crossed the line in 20.20 seconds and after seeing his time, he did five push-ups and saluted to the crowd for their support. Two hours later, with seven competitors outside him, Makwala finished second in lane one, with a time of 20.14, behind Isiah Young to reach the final.
However, his exclusion from the 400m still rankled and, following two runs in two hours, Makwala said,
“I’m running with anger. I still want my 400. That’s my race. I’m still running heartbroken. I wish the IAAF had taken the decision for me to run my 400 first, alone. I was ready to run the 400 alone. Then I could run the 200.
I wish to thank the IAAF for giving me another chance and the crowd is so amazing. They made me believe. I just want to thank this crowd. It’s so amazing.”
The fallout, though, didn’t stop there. Botswana’s Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Thapelo Olopeng questioned the IAAF’s earlier decision and stated that the Botswana government “couldn’t tolerate such behaviour from an organisation such as the IAAF. We can even go the legal route.”
Thursday, Aug. 10
The fairy tale ending wasn’t to be for Makwala who ran the 200m final in 20.44 seconds. Despite coming through the bend and first 100 metres in effective style, Makwala fell off the pace in the final half of the race to finish in a still-respectable sixth place.
Ramil Guliyev won in 20.09 seconds, picking up Turkey’s first gold medal of the World Championships.
His Excellency the President, Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama on the Isaac Makwala controversy
While the Isaac Makwala controversy storm raged in London, President Khama hailed the tremendous determination and spirit that was displayed by Isaac Makwala in the face of his “unfair disqualification” by the IAAF from running in the 400m final and 200m qualifier. In his remarks delivered at the beginning of special High Level Consultation Council meeting this week, the President informed the meeting that it had been decided to reward Makwala with the P100,000 gold medal incentive that he would have otherwise been entitled to had he won the race.
The President also thanked the domestic and international media, responsible officials and members of the public in Botswana and around the world for their support in holding the IAAF accountable, which in part led to Makwala being allowed to run in the 200-metre race. The president also informed the meeting that should Makwala win the race, he would declare a public holiday on a day to be announced at a later stage.
Alas! As we now know, it wasn’t meant to be. Batswana pinned their hope on the relay races that took place yesterday. Sadly, the men’s relay team crashed out of the heats after they finished 7th with a time of 3:06.50. The women’s relay team, who breezed through the qualifiers by clocking a National Record (NR) of 3:26.90, will participate in the final tonight. We’ll bring you the results when the news breaks.
While we’ve not exactly come back from the 2017 IAAF World Championships heavily leaden with trophies, it’s been exhilarating, exciting and memorable. Team Botswana well and truly showed themselves to possess the might and tenacity to face up to some of the world’s best athletes. It’s my staunch conviction that they will only keep getting better and the world had better look out for Botswana in the future. Very well done to Team Botswana; bravo and good luck for the future. Keep the faith and come back stronger and even more formidable!
The world and Batswana go crazy over Makwala Challenge!
Following Makwala’s solo qualifier, he dropped down to cut a few solid press-ups before giving the adoring spectators a salute, perhaps by way of giving the IAAF the two-finger salute as well as to bolster his assertion that he was fit to compete. In what proved to be a highly comedic but firm show of solidarity with their fellow countryman, Batswana up and down the country took to social media with pictures of them doing the Makwala press-ups, dubbed the #MAKWALA_CHALLENGE. Indeed, the world followed suit with their own version of the Makwala challenge, with various media houses, including the BBC reporting on the latest craze!
Back on home soil, “Makwala fever” went off the scale with a new expression coined – The act of Makwalaring– getting somewhere in record time!
Countless pictures of people doing some of the weirdest versions of press-up started popping up on Facebook and Twitter, complete with Makwala’s trademark arm sleeve. The various inventive pictures included arm sleeves fashioned out of all manner of materials such as carrier bags, toilet paper, silver foil, socks and scarves. The Makwala challenge progressively took an even funnier turn as more and more people posed with various objects piled on their backs such as couches, seemingly heavy boxes, dustbins and TV sets. There was even one of a doll on all fours, doing the Makwala press-ups.
The women’s relay team, who breezed through the qualifiers by clocking a National Record (NR) of 3:26.90, will participate in the final tonight. We’ll bring you the results when the news breaks.
Source: espn.co.uk, BOPA
Images sources – Daily Express, Houston Chronicle, Metro US, Sky News, The Huffington Post Australia, oaitsebw (Twitter) & sweet bae (Twitter)