Letsile Tebogo, a young sprinter from Botswana, has attracted global headlines and drawn comparisons with multiple award winner Usain Bolt. The young starlet caught the eye of everyone after his performance at the ongoing World Athletics under 20 Championships 2022 in Colombia.
He smashed the standing Under-20s 100m record and set a new world record with a time of 9.91 seconds. What made the win even more phenomenal is that his win is only a few milliseconds short of matching Bolt’s 9.69 seconds 100m time, which won him the gold at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
In the usual Bolt fashion, he pointed his finger to the sky just before crossing the finish line – after ensuring he was in a clear lead. He would, however, clarify that this was not in any way t disrespect Bolt’s legacy but rather to respect it.
“He’s my idol – the person I look up to,” Tebogo said after the race. He would later go on to also break the standing record in the men’s 200m heats in 19.98 seconds – just like Usain Bolt.
After the feat, many headlines worldwide are asking the same question in the minds of millions of people – Who is Letsile Tebogo, the new Usain Bolt?
Before the race, the spotlight was on Tebogo because there had been rumours that he was capable of setting a new world record and walking in the footsteps of Usain Bolt. This was because he had set a record of 9.94 seconds in the recent World Championships in Eugene (9.94), where he reached the semi-finals.
Also, his comparison with Bolt goes beyond his performances on the tracks. His movements, gestures, and celebrations are reminiscent of the Jamaican superstar.
Just like Bolt, the sufficiency with which he runs allows Tebogo to tease his rivals. In the semi-finals, he stared at the South African Benjamin Richardson while running – in the usual Bolt fashion.
It was a pictorial replay of Bolt and Andre De Grasse in the Olympic semi-final in Rio. World Athletics immediately posted both pictures side-by-side on their social media handles.
Then, in the final, he got off to a strong start and immediately left his rivals behind. He allowed himself the luxury of running the last 30 metres with his sights set on the Jamaican Bouwahjgie Nkrumie, whom he was pointing the finger at.
He still finished in 9.91 (+0.8 wind), the photo-finish immortalizing Nkrumie’s gesture. However, once the race was over, Tebogo wanted to clarify his gestures.
“The statement was to come out and enjoy the race,” Tebogo told the World Athletics website.
“I saw they were scared of me, but I was also scared of them.
“When the gun went off, I had to make sure I made the best start of my life, and it was the best start of my life.
“I didn’t plan [the celebration], but as soon as my first step, I knew the title was mine. I didn’t worry about the time. I didn’t look.
“If somebody took it as disrespect, I’m really sorry. I saw the fans and everybody watching at home can enjoy the race. To remind them a little bit about what Usain Bolt did back in the days. He’s my idol. The person I look up to.”