Updated 30 July 2012
Amantle MONTSHO, Botswana (400m)
Born 4 July 1983, Mabudutsa
Coach: Anthony Koffi (based at Dakar High Performance Training Centre)
Amantle Montsho is the first Botswana woman athlete to reach elite world level.
Born in Mabudutsa, in the far north of the country, Amantle is the only child of Victor Nkape and Janet Montsho, who separated 2 years after her birth. She has 3 half-sisters on her mother’s side and seven half-siblings and stepsiblings on her father’s side, the youngest being born in December 2011. She spent most her childhood with her father, who once was a prosperous cattle farmer, but lost everything in 1996 when Botswana’s government eradicated all cattle in the area to prevent a wave of cattle lung disease from spreading all over the country.
The young Montsho started to attract attention during her schooldays at Maun’s Tshwaragano Community Junior Secondary School. Following her 100m and 200m victories at the northern region championships, Montsho was selected to compete at the school national finals (BISA), winning a silver medal in the 100m, bronze in the 200m, and gold with the 4x100m relay team. The following year she won school titles in the 100m and 4x100m and was Botswana champion in the 200m (26.0). She thus earned her first international selection for the Southern African school championships (COSSASA), for which the coaches asked her to try the 400m. Her effort was rewarded with a bronze medal.
Throughout this time Montsho was supported by her sports teacher, Innocent Tapela. He encouraged her to work hard and persevere in the sport as he saw better prospects for her in athletics than in academics.
Upon completion of her Junior certificate in 2002, Montsho started to feature more regularly in regional events. In May 2003, she won the national title with a PB of 55.03, helped in her effort by Namibia’s Silba Tjingaete who took the race in 54.45. Two months later, the positions were reversed at the Southern Region Championships, in Lusaka (58.04 to 58.50). For her first continental event, the 2003 All Africa Games, in Abuja, she was just 0.03sec outside her PB, finishing fourth of her heat in 55.06. At that time, she worked as a shop clerk in Maun but started to travel to the capital Gaborone (an 8-10 hour drive away) as often as possible to attend the out-of-school training camp set up to develop promising athletes.
In 2004, Montsho was spotted by Dakar’s sprint coach, Anthony Koffi, who was on a recruiting tour on behalf of IAAF Member Services Director, Elio Locatelli. Her name was submitted to the selection committee but another year would go by before she would join the High Performance Training Centre to prepare for the 2005-2006 season. That year she broke both the 200m and 400m national records, clocking 24.82 at altitude, in Windhoek, in May, 53.9 at the national championships in June, 54.06 at the African Championships, in Brazzaville, in July and 53.77 at the Olympic Games in August.
Taking part in the Olympics was a dream come true for the young athlete who did not have the standard but who was entered with the wild card for countries without qualified athletes. Montsho thus became the first female from Botswana to compete in the Olympics.
In 2005, she benefited from her first training camp in Europe as she was among a group of four Botswana athletes sent to Germany from June until the World Championships, in Helsinki. Facing tougher competition than she was used to, she was propelled one step further. She lowered her previous best by more than a second, clocking 53.51, in Celle Ligure, on 16 June and 52.59, in Oordegem, on 2 July. She had a second outing under 53 (52.83) in the same city at the end of July but could do no better than 53.97 at the world event.
Hardly a few weeks later, fire gutted her home in Mabudutsa and she lost all her belongings except the clothes she was wearing.
However, not only did Montsho’s arrival in Dakar HPTC help to further lower her times, it also contributed to strengthen her competitor skills. Coming into the 2006 African Championships as the 11th ranked performer of the year (52.14 in Brazzaville), she dealt with the terrible wind conditions to finish second to Senegal’s Amy Mbacke Thiam, which earned her a spot in the African relay team that placed 6th in the World Cup.
In 2007, Montsho ran under 52sec for the first time, clocking 51.88 for 5th in Brazzaville behind Thiam and the three leading Nigerians Ekpukhon, Abugan and Eze. The unexpected absence of the Senegalese at the All Africa Games, in Algiers, suddenly made the race more open but the question being asked was ‘Which Nigerian will claim the gold?’ Defying the odds, Montsho ran 51.54 in the semis and 51.13 in the Final for a narrow win over Joy Eze (51.20). It was an historic gold for Botswana.
At the World Championships in Osaka, Montsho finished 4th of her semi-final in 50.90, her fourth national record of the year.
The 2008 Valencia World Indoors Championships marked Montsho’s maiden appearance on an indoor track after plans by Dakar HPTC coaches to do a European indoor tour earlier that winter were cancelled. After winning her heat in 52.96, she couldn’t advance to the Final, finishing fifth in her semi (53.21).
Just a week later in Dakar, on March 15th she set a new national record in the 200m (23.31) showing promising shape ahead of the African Championships held early May in Addis-Ababa.
While the competition came too early in the season for many, it was not the case for the Botswana’s star, who specifically targeted the event as a major goal for 2008. Through the combined effects of good preparation and high altitude, she delivered a magnificent display to confirm her supremacy in the continent and clocked a stunning 49.83, which ranked her at the time as the fourth fastest ever in Africa and a joint leader in the 2008 World top lists.
That performance opened the doors of some of the biggest meets: she raced successively in Doha (7th in 51.87), Dakar (1st in 51.00), Milano (3rd in 51.23), Roma (4th in 51.17), and Stockholm (5th in 51.46) and also improved her national record in the 200m in Algiers (23.02 on 29 May).
The return to sea level showed that there was still some way to go before becoming regular around 50 seconds. But Montsho had already shown her ability to raise her level for championships and she did it again at the Beijing Olympics, becoming the first Botswana female athlete to reach an Olympic Final. She first clocked 50.91 in her heat, before producing her second fastest time ever (50.54) for 2nd in her semi-final. However, she wasn’t able to play a role in the Final and had to settle for 8th in 51.18. The time was not up to the level she was expecting, but Montsho still found pride in reaching that stage of competition and learnt a lot to take with her to London 2012.
Her feat was warmly celebrated at home, as Montsho not only won Botswana’s Sportswoman of the year award, but became the first woman in a long time to win the country’s Sportsperson of the year title, defeating boxer Khumiso Ikgopoleng, who had reached the quarter-finals in Beijing.
A leading athlete at the Dakar High Performance Training Centre, Montsho spends most of the year out of her country. She prepared the 2009 season in Dakar, with training camps in Rabat (Morocco), Boulouris (France) and Formia (Italy) in the lead up to Berlin. She made a rare appearance in front of her home crowd to take the double 200m (24.01) – 400m (51.88) at the Southern African Championships in Gaborone at the end of May, her first races in Botswana in four years. Montsho also became a regular figure of the Golden League series with three top 3 placings and 3 sub-51 in Berlin (2nd in 50.94), Oslo (3rd in 50.71) and Paris (3rd in 50.61).
At the World Championships in Berlin, Montsho ran brilliantly in the semi-final, claiming the 2nd qualifying spot just one hundredth of second behind Jamaica’s Novlene Williams-Mills (49.88 to 49.89), clocking her second sub-50 after her 49.83 from Addis-Ababa one year earlier, but this time at sea level. She however never was a factor in the Final where, racing in lane 8, she finished 8th and last (50.65) like the previous year at the Olympics.
This second 8th placing two years in a row was somewhat perceived as a failure back home and the Botswana Athletics Association made up plans to relocate her to a training centre in the USA to boost her career. However Montsho eventually decided to return to her training base in Dakar at the end of her break in December.
The 2010 World Indoor Championships in Doha didn’t come as a major priority in Montsho’s agenda, as it came too early in the season. However she made an impression on March 5th when, debuting on the rarely run 300m at the Lievin IAAF Indoor Permit meet, she clocked 36.33, tying the 7th performance in the All-time lists. In Doha, she set a national record of 52.34 in the first round but wasn’t not able to improve in the later rounds and finished 4th in the final (52.53). In early April, she went back home for a couple of days to be crowned a second time Sportswoman and Sportsperson of the year, an unprecedented feat in the history of Botswana’s sports.
The 2010 outdoor season got off to a cracking start for Montsho with 5 victories in 8 races (Abidjan, Dakar, Brazzaville, Oslo, New York) and 2 second places behind American Allyson Felix in Doha and Eugene. With a season’s best of 50.07 set in Lausanne on 8 July the 26 year old had no difficulty to defend her African title in Nairobi at the end of the same month, leaving her closest opponents more than one second back (50.03).
A joint leader of the Diamond League Series with Allyson Felix before the African Championships, Montsho experienced a bit of a slowdown after Nairobi (5th in Stockholm, 4th in London and 3rd in Zürich) and had to settle for second behind the American (the winner both in London and Zürich).
For her first individual selection in an African team after competing in the 4x400m four years earlier, Montsho didn’t disappoint at the Continental Cup in Split early September claiming the win in 49.89, a time that moved her to third in the 2010 top lists. The season ended in a high note with an easy victory – but an important one for her country – at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi where she clocked 50.10, 1.5 seconds ahead the second finisher.
Following her 2010 achievements (African and Commonwealth titles as well as the victory in the Continental Cup) it came as no surprise that Montsho was crowned Sportswoman and Sportsperson of the year in Botswana for the third year in a row, to the point that some local journalists started wondering if the athlete had not become “too big” for the awards.
In 2011, Montsho started her season in Africa with some speed work (two wind-assisted 200m in Mauritius (22.94w) and Dakar (22.88w) and a 100m in Bamako where she improved the national record to 11.60. She then took part in 7 races in the Diamond League, losing the first two (Doha and Roma) to American Allyson Felix, before carrying on with a string of 5 undisputed victories in Eugene (50.59), Oslo (50.10), Lausanne (50.23), Birmingham (50.20) and Monaco (49.71, a new national).
Such had been her domination in the Diamond League that Montsho had already secured global victory before the World Championships. She wasn’t willing to endorse the status of favourite though, pointing that she had to concentrate on getting into the final first. But this time Montsho was ready and made history when she held off American Allyson Felix by 0.03 after a thrilling home straight duel to become Botswana’s first World Championships medallist and first World Championships gold medallist in a new national record of 49.56.
Montsho was given a welcome befitting a queen when she landed back in Botswana as the country’s president, vice-president and no fewer than 10 ministers were among the hundreds of well-wishers waiting for her at the airport. The celebrations didn’t last long. Less than two weeks later, the sprinter was back on duty for the All-Africa Games in Maputo where she had no difficulty to defend her title (50.87) on 13 September. She ended her season three days later after her victory at the Diamond League final in Brussels in 50.16
As Montsho was resting in Botswana, early October, she was attacked and robbed of her bag in Gaborone’s main mall. The Botswana National Olympic Committee reacted to the incident saying they don’t have sufficient resources to provide the athlete with security, but the subject of athlete’s protection will have to be put on the agenda as more professional athletes start emerging in the country.
Montsho started her 2012 season with a 400m at her Dakar training base (50.94 on 21 April). She then went on an Asian tour, lowering her 200m national record to 22.89 in Fukuroi on 3 May. Three days later, she had an easy win in Kawasaki (50.52). She then lost to Jamaica’s Novlene Williams-Mills in Shanghai (50.83 to 50.00 on 19 May). On 2 June, she finished second to Sanya Richards-Ross in Eugene, recording her first sub 50 of the season (49.72 to 49.39). She then showed great form in Oslo on 7 June (49.68) and at the African Championships on 28 June (49.54 a new PB and NR) in races without serious competition. The continental event in Benin was not only about individual success as she led Botswana’s women 4x400m team to a silver medal in 3:31.27, a 5 seconds improvement over the previous national record.
Montsho raced 2 more times before the Olympic Games: she finished first (49.77) in Paris Saint-Denis ahead of Novlene Williams-Mills but had to settle for second against Great-Britain’s Christine Ohuruogu after starting at suicidal pace in pouring rain in London (50.56) on 14 July. The Botswana’s sprinter holds the 4th fastest time in 2012 behind Russia’s Antonina Krivoshapka (49.16) and Yuliya Gushchina (49.28) and American Sanya Richards-Ross (49.28). She is definitely in contention for a medal, but does she have what it takes to raise her level and catch favourite Richards-Ross?
200m: 22.89 (2012)
400m: 49.54 (2012)
2003: - / 55.03; 2004: 24.82 / 53.77; 2005: 24.59 / 52.59; 2006: 25.59w / 52.14; 2007: 23.66 / 50.90; 2008: 23.02 / 49.83A; 2009: 23.64 / 49.89; 2010: 23.05 / 49.89; 2011: 22.88w / 49.56; 2012: 22.89 / 49.54
2006 2nd African Championships (52.68)
2007 1st All Africa Games (51.13)
2007 4th sf World Championships in Athletics (50.90)
2008 1st African Championships (49.83)
2008 8th Olympic Games (51.18)
2008 4th World Athletics Final (51.54)
2009 1st Southern African Championships (51.88)
2009 1st Southern African Championships (24.01)
2009 8th World Championships in Athletics (50.65 - 49.89 in sf)
2009 5th World Athletics Final (51.39)
2010 4th World Indoor Championships (52.53)
2010 1st African Championships (50.03) 2010 1st Continental Cup (49.89)
2010 1st Commonwealth Games (50.10)
2011 1st World Championships in Athletics (49.56)
2011 1st All Africa Games (50.87)
2012 1st African Championships (49.54)
Prepared by Carole Fuchs for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. © IAAF 2007-2012.