|400 Metres||45.56||Abidjan||26 APR 2014|
|800 Metres||1:41.73||London (Olympic Stadium)||09 AUG 2012|
|1000 Metres||2:25.21||Rabat||15 JUL 2010|
|3000 Metres||8:33.93||Gaborone||23 MAY 2010|
|2016||45.73||Port Elizabeth||19 APR|
|2016||1:44.66||London (Olympic Stadium)||22 JUL|
|2015||1:42.66||Monaco (Stade Louis II)||17 JUL|
|2014||1:42.45||Monaco (Stade Louis II)||18 JUL|
|2013||1:44.71||Lausanne (Pontaise)||04 JUL|
|2012||1:41.73||London (Olympic Stadium)||09 AUG|
|The XXXI Olympic Games||7h5||1:50.46||Rio de Janeiro (Estádio Olímpico)||12 AUG 2016|
|15th IAAF World Championships||3sf2||1:47.96||Beijing (National Stadium)||23 AUG 2015|
|2nd IAAF Continental Cup 2014||1||1:44.88||Marrakech (Le Grande Stade)||14 SEP 2014|
|14th IAAF World Championships||h2||DNS||Moskva (Luzhniki)||10 AUG 2013|
|The XXX Olympic Games||2||1:41.73||London (Olympic Stadium)||09 AUG 2012|
|14th IAAF World Junior Championships||1||1:43.79||Barcelona (Estadio Olímpico)||15 JUL 2012|
|7th IAAF World Youth Championships||5||1:47.28||Lille||09 JUL 2011|
Focus on Athletes biographies are produced by the IAAF Communications Dept, and not by the IAAF Statistics and Documentation Division. If you have any enquiries concerning the information, please use the Contact IAAF page, selecting ‘Focus on Athletes Biographies’ in the drop down menu of contact area options.
Created 5 September 2014
Nijel AMOS, Botswana (800m)
Born: 15 March 1994, Marobela, Botswana
Lives: Potchefstroom, South Africa
Coach: John Verster
Manager: Federico Rosa
When Nijel Amos crossed the line first at the Southern African Youth Championships in the 1000m race in 2010, little would the watching spectators have known that within two years the gangly Botswanan would produce one of the all-time quickest 800m performances on the greatest stage of all.
The then 16-year-old produced a very solid, but not spectacular, 2:26.92 to take the title on home soil in the Botswanan capital, Gaborone, yet did so despite having barely prepared for the event and having not yet made the decision to focus on the sport at which he would go on to excel.
“2010 was my first year. I also did the African Youth Games, where I was third in the 1000m. That was in Morocco (Rabat),” he recalls. “My mum used to be a runner, but she wasn’t that good. My cousin was also a runner at high school, but I liked soccer. I grew up as a soccer player. I still have the love for soccer. It’s the sport I thought I could go for.”
“I started properly doing athletics when I finished at high school in 2011,” he explains. “My high school coach, Mr Mafefe, decided that I should focus on 800m. I did 1:47 at the age of 17. That’s when it started. When I finished my high school, that’s when I decided, ‘yeah, I can do this professionally.’”
By that time, Amos had already taken his talent to another level, running 1:47.38 over 800m for third place at the African Youth Championships, again on home territory, before travelling to Lille for the IAAF World Youth Championships, his first real taste of global competition.
“I went to the World Youth Championships, which were in France. I did 1:47 in the final. I was in 5th position and the guys who beat me, I always beat them now,” he smiles.
Amos puts his early improvement partly down to a growing love for the sport, but also by embracing the struggle involved in becoming a world-class athlete.
“I started athletics and just doing it for fun at first,” he says. “I didn’t do it for love. Running is something that you only begin to love once you’ve started doing it. Only once you’ve started can you fall in love with it.”
Yet, it took more than love to improve his performances.
“I was afraid of something that made me feel pain,” the 20-year-old confesses. “After I got more and more involved in running, I realised that this is the sort of pain I enjoyed. That’s when I started to like it.”
Even in the early stages of his career, Amos had a keen understanding of the power that athletics gave him and how it could transform his life and that, too, played a part in his commitment to the sport.
“From the big family I was born into and the way I live life, I never imagined that I’d be travelling,” he says. “The world is amazing to me. It’s really great. It’s a blessing to me every day. My family wasn’t born with a silver spoon. I lost my mum when I was three years old and I was raised by my grandmother. If it wasn’t for running, I wouldn’t get to see places, to be honest.”
Yet thanks to his talent and a renewed commitment, there were plenty more places that the young Botswanan would see over the following two years. With the World Youth Championships and a trip to the Isle of Man in Great Britain for the Commonwealth Youth Games under his belt, Amos embarked on a golden 12-month period that saw him develop from promising contender to global superstar.
“I was 18 when I figured that I could run fast,” he reveals. “I never thought I could run 1:41, but I knew I could run. The Botswana national record was 1:44, so I thought, maybe I could give myself three years to run 1:44. If I don’t make it in 3 years I’ll retire, but things turned out differently.”
That’s an understatement.
“2012 was a great year,” he grins. “It was a year that I’ll always look back at with a smile. It was the year when I made myself a name. I joined the national team. I did 1:46.30 in Botswana. When I did that. I didn’t have a coach, I didn’t have anyone. I didn’t have a training programme, I was just running. If I felt I could do more distance, I did more distance. If I felt like I could do more speed, I did more speed. I did 1:46.30 and I was recognised by the National Olympic Committee in Botswana. I joined the team and trained with a professional coach, but still spoke to my high school coach. Even now I’m still chatting with him and asking him after a race what he thinks of my running and what I need to perfect.”
First stop to glory was Mannheim in Germany, for a qualification meeting for the IAAF World Junior Championships.
“That was my favourite race,” he reveals. “It was when I first broke the 1:46 barrier and ran 1:43.11. It was a small race, but that was my breakthrough. If I ever get an invitation from that race, I won’t turn it down, whatever shape I’m in.”
In reducing his personal best so dramatically, Amos surprised even himself, yet there was plenty more to come, as he headed to Barcelona for the IAAF World Junior Championships. It could scarcely have gone any better, as he ended up as the World Junior champion with another sub 1:44 clocking.
“I had trained professionally for six months and after six months I managed to run a couple of 1:43s,” he remembers, shaking his head.
With a gold medal in the bag, Amos’s attention then turned to the big event of the summer, the London Olympic Games.
“When I got to London, I was confident, because it was just weeks after the World Juniors, which was my second 1:43 in a just over month, so I was having that confidence,” Amos comments. “I knew that if I could stick with the guys I could get something. My aim was not to win, or to win a medal. My aim was just to be in the final. So after I got to the final I was happy and had nothing to lose. I’d achieved my aims, thanks God. My coach told me to remember that I didn’t have anything to lose and to just go there and have fun.”
“That really picked up my motivation. I was like ‘yeah! Coach has told me to have fun, so I have to go and do it!’”
Have fun he did, tracking Kenya’s David Rudisha all the way and crossing the lie in second in an incredible 1:41.73, a World Junior record and the equal third fastest time ever run, by anybody.
Yet if the sport had been very good to him up until that point, he was soon to realise the downside to life as an elite athlete.
“In 2013, I had a lot of challenges,” he says. “It was a hard year for me. As athletes, people see us performing and don’t know what we’re going through in daily life sometimes.”
In April 2013, Amos suffered a suffered a hamstring tear, and was told to have 6 weeks out. After 6 weeks he came back, wasn’t feeling that strong anymore but still wanted to run. He clocked 1:44.71 for fourth in Lausanne, but was disappointed by his 1:46.53 winning time at the Universiade in Kazan just over a week later.
“From there, I made the decision myself, that there was no need to push on with the injury. I’d rather just stay at home and focus on the next year. So I did that and I spoke to my coach and said lets quit the season and come back in 2014.”
Come back he did and the 2014 season has seen Amos back to his best. The year began in earnest on Doha, where he was narrowly beaten by Ethiopia’s Mohammed Aman, before a win in Eugene that saw him re-enter 1:43 territory for the first time since 2012.
Even more spectacularly, Amos travelled to his two major targets of the year, the Commonwealth Games and the African Championships and returned with two gold medals, managing to turn the tables on Rudisha by passing him on the home straight in Glasgow.
Amos comes into the IAAF Continental Cup as the world leader in the 800m with 1:42.45, set as he won in Monaco in one of the greatest 800m races ever seen outside of a championships, and the winner of the IAAF Diamond League.
One of the keys to his success is the way that Amos is able to relax away from the track and he is known for his DJing skills back home in Botswana.
“Music is something that keeps me going,” he laughs. “It makes me myself. It makes me real, me only. I like to listen to music, make my own songs, DJ.”
Yet his time is increasingly devoted to his education, as he suffers with the same challenges faced by student-athletes the world over.
“Most of the time I’m studying, doing my degree in South Africa. Travelling is a challenge, but now it’s part of my routine. My body’s getting used to it, and my mind-set is changing.”
Fans of the sport who have been thrilled over the last few years by his flamboyant racing style will certainly hope that that mind-set doesn’t change too much.
800m: 1:41.73 NR (2012)
800m: 2011 – 1:47.28 NJR; 2012 – 1:41.73 NR, AJR; 2013 – 1:44.71; 2014 – 1:42.45
Southern African Youth Championships 1000m(Gaborone)
Southern African Youth Championships 3000m(Gaborone)
African Youth Games 1000m (Rabat)
African Junior Championships 800m (Gaborone)
IAAF World Youth Championships 800m (Lille)
Commonwealth Youth Games 800m (Douglas)
World Junior Championships 800m (Barcelona)
Olympic Games 800m (London)
Universiade 800m (Kazan)
Commonwealth Games 800m (Glasgow)
African Championships (Marrakesh)
Prepared by Dean Hardman for the IAAF 'Focus on Athletes' project. Copyright IAAF 2014.