Baboloki Thebe wins the 400m at the African Championships (Roger Sedres) © Copyright
Preview Bydgoszcz, Poland

Preview: men's 400m – IAAF World U20 Championships Bydgoszcz 2016

Botswana’s Baboloki Thebe has been a regular fixture in global age-group championships since 2014 but to say his 44.22 performance at his national championships was a surprise is an understatement.

Thebe initially began his athletics career as a 100m and 200m specialist. Although he had frequently competed in 4x400m races since his school days, he made his individual 400m debut earlier this year with a time of 45.23, defeating Isaac Makwala.

Two months later, and with the assistance of Gaborone’s altitude, Thebe reduced his PB to an African U20 record of 44.22, moving to second on the world U20 all-time list behind Steve Lewis’s time of 43.87 which was set at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul.

Thebe proved that performance wasn’t a one-off by winning the senior African title at sea level in Durban by nearly one second last month in 44.69.

Thebe will go head-to-head in Bydgoszcz with another rising star, Qatar’s Abdalelah Haroun, who is third on the world U20 all-time list with 44.27. The world indoor silver medallist ran 44.81 at the start of the year in Doha, although the 19-year-old hasn’t broken the 45-second barrier since then.

There is a possibility that Botswana could take a brace of medals from this event as Karabo Sibanda finished second to Thebe at the African Championships in 45.42. It might be presumptuous to call that race a changing of the guard but for posterity, national record-holder Isaac Makwala was only fourth in 46.58.

Another exciting prospect in action is Jamaica’s Christopher Taylor, who won gold at the World Youth Championships last summer in a world age-15 best of 45.27, while the US challenge is led by their junior champion Wilbert London.

The past three winners of this title have already firmly established themselves in the senior ranks: Machel Cedenio (2014), Luguelin Santos (2012) and Kirani James (2010).

Steven Mills for the IAAF