WHO DAT? Baboloki Thebe and the Botswana 400 Crew
Not many track fans know his name, and fewer yet know how to pronounce it. But make no mistake, Baboloki Thebe is a name you won't soon forget. Why is that? Well for starters, he's run the 3rd fastest 400m this year with a 44.02 clocking. This was in Lausanne last week where he finished second to world record holder and reigning Olympic Champ Wayde Van Niekerk.
But the more important point is that the man is only 20 years of age. Even the top American 400m prodigy Fred Kerley is already 22 years of age. It can't be understated how young Baboloki is when you're talking about a 44-flat 400m.
Only the American Steve Lewis has ever run faster at 400m before the age of 20 - when he won the Soeul Olympics in 1988 at the age of 19. The top-10 400m athletes of all time recorded their best times at an average age of 25 years old. Baboloki probably has 5 more years of development before he too reaches his prime.
Baboloki is from Botswana which on the surface doesn't seem like a hotbed for track and field talent. But digging a little deeper shows that Botswana has seen some real success at 400m recently. Countryman Isaac Makwala has run 44.08 already this year finishing just behind Thebe in Lausanne and has a top 5 finish at the 2015 World Championships to add to his accomplishments. In addition, the Botswana 4x400m team finished 5th in Rio, only 0.57 seconds from the bronze medal. And if that wasn't enough, Botswana is also home of world leading 800m runner Nijel Amos. On the women's side, the Botswana talent is just as fast. Lydia Jele ran 50.32 (IN MARCH), which is good for 11th on the IAAF 2017 performance list.
Baboloki has some serious wheels and nothing to lose come August. Do we think he's going to beat Wayde Van Neikerk this summer? Probably not. But stranger things have happened...like Wayde Van Neikerk's world record last year from lane 8, totally unexpected.
Bottom line is this. He's an immense talent and someone who should definitely be on the radar of every serious track fan. He could pull off an upset this year but Tokyo 2020 will probably be his time to shine. And with Nijel Amos' success, a Botswana 400/800 double in Tokyo is by no means out of the question, Nijel is only 23 after all. That being said, it's 2017 - let's sit back and watch as Baboloki and his Botswana crew aims for some hardware at World's this year.
THE FAST TRACK 2017 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP PREDICTION:
Baboloki Thebe wins bronze in the 400m
Botswana 4x400m crew wins bronze in the 4x400m
Nijel Amos wins gold in the 800m