Just before I left the Drake Relays, Justin Lagat sent this piece to RunBlogRun on Saturday. As I took my Lyft back to the hotel, my driver, Alfred, a Kenyan man living in Des Moines, and I chatted about Kenyan sports. I told him that Ferdinand Omanyala had run 9.78 to win in Botswana. He was thrilled. Alfred knew who Ferdinand was and loved that I had interviewed Eliud Kipchoge. My new friend in Des Moines also liked that we have a writer in Iten, Kenya, where he knew many distance runners trained. Our sport continues to unite the world.
The electric atmosphere and the crowds were amazing as the first-ever World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meet happened in the Southern part of the African continent. The 2023 Botswana Golden Grand Prix was a success, as fast times were recorded in the sprints; two legal and one wind-assisted world-leading times were recorded.
The men’s 100m sprint race was arguably the highlight of the day. It was a tense moment just before the race and also after. Wild cheers from the crowd welcomed the main contenders as their names were read to the expectant fans. In a spectacular show of might, Kenya’s Ferdinand Omanyala won the race in a world-leading time of 9.78. Home favorite Letsile Tebogo finished second in 9.91, and USA’s Kenny Bednarek took third in 10.02.
Just after the race, a slow motion showed that Omanyala had stepped slightly on Tebogo’s lane. For a fan who had seen Omanyala’s world-leading time of 9.81 earlier in the year failing to be recognized due to a faulty wind gauge, it was another tense moment to wait and see if he would get the world lead this time around. Then, shortly after, the wind-gauge reading revealed it was a wind-assisted (+2.3) time. Not a world-leading time again!
Ferdinand Omanyala takes 60m win, photo by Meeting Hauts-de-France Pas-de-Calais
This was the second of the biggest track and field outdoor meets this year –after the first continental tour gold meeting in Australia- and athletes were eager to make their first impressions for the year. There were also the championship qualification standards to be chased.
In the first race on the track, Trevor Bassit of the USA won the men’s 400mH in 48.43 ahead of Tunisia’s Touati Mohamad Amine (48.58) and Kenya’s Mukhobe Wiseman Were (49.29).
Moraa takes her semi-final, photo by Getty Images for World Athletics
Kenya’s Mary Moraa appeared to be holding the rear on the backstretch, then gradually moved towards the front and finished strongly to win the women’s 400m race in 50.44, a time that qualifies her for the World Championships, and a new national record. Coetzee Miranda of South Africa was second in 51.14, and McLeod Candice of Jamaica was third in 51.17.
Twanisha Terry of the US won the women’s 100m in 11.05. Egypt’s Hemida Basant ran 11.09 for second, while Kiara Parker of the USA completed the podium in 11.16.
A new leader in the men’s 400 meters emerged, as, Muzala Samukonga of Zambia ran a new world-leading time of 43.91 to upset the pre-race favorite Kirani James of Grenada, who finished second in 44.76 ahead of Leungo Scotch of Botswana who took third in 44.92. (Editor’s note: Keen observers will remember that Muzala Samukonga also won the 2022 African Champs at 400 meters and the 2022 Commonwealth Games at 400 meters, and his star is continuing to shine! Keen observers will also note that Kirani James is the only Man to win gold, silver, and bronze in the Olympic 400 meters and a full set in World Champs, gold in 2011 Daegu, bronze in 2015 Beijing, and silver in 2023 Eugene).
Tebogo would come back to win the men’s 200m race in a legal world-leading time of 19.81 to thunderous cheering from home crowds. Aaron Brown of Canada was second in 20.00, and Fahnbulleh Joseph of Liberia in 20.14.