Botswana prodigy Tebogo targets 100m and 200m gold at Paris 2024. GETTY IMAGES

The 20-year-old athlete is aiming to become the first African to win Olympic gold in the top speed events. After winning gold and bronze medals at the World Championships in Budapest, Tebogo is determined to emulate his idol, Usain Bolt, "the person I admire most," the African pointed out.

Botswana's sprint star Letsile Tebogo has set his sights on Olympic gold in the 100 and 200 metres, aiming to become the first African to triumph in the speed events. His continent has triumphed in the middle and long distances, but not in the sprints, and now he is determined to make history. He turns 21 in June, just a month before the Paris 2024 Olympic Games kick off.

For the Botswana athlete, winning these events would also bring him closer to his idol, Usain Bolt, known as Lightning Bolt. The Jamaican, who won eight Olympic gold medals and 11 world titles between 2007 and 2017, was a true distance dominator.

With Bolt as his inspiration, Tebogo has already begun his rise, winning silver in the 100m and bronze in the 200m at the 2023 World Championships in Budapest. "He (Bolt) is my idol, the person I admire the most. What he has achieved is really amazing. I watched him on TV every time he ran. Everyone remembers Usain. I want them to remember me when I hang up my running shoes," said the University of Oregon athlete on the west coast of the United States.

Tebogo in Budapest alongside world champion Noah Lyles. GETTY IMAGES
Tebogo in Budapest alongside world champion Noah Lyles. GETTY IMAGES

At just 20, he is humble and modest. "I don't have to be the greatest of all time, it will be good to be in the top three," says the star, who grew up in Kanye, a town 42 miles (68 kilometres) south of the capital, Gaborone. His success would be unprecedented for Africa and even more so for his country. "The time is ripe for African athletes to have a stranglehold on speed events," he declared.

He did just that. He clocked 9.88 seconds (0.30 seconds faster than Bolt's 2009 world record) to finish second behind USA's Noah Lyles, who also won the 200 metres in Hungary, followed by fellow American Erriyon Knighton, with Tebogo third, 0.29 seconds behind the champion. It is the first time that an African has finished in the top three in these events at a World Championships.

He also made history for his country. The two medals were the first ever won by a man from Botswana at a World Championships. His compatriot Amantle Montsho won gold and silver in the women's 400m in 2011 and 2013 respectively. The sport runs in his family. His mother, Seratiwa, a former athlete, still plays a key role in Letsile's life. She went to Budapest without Tebogo's knowledge. 

She later spoke of her nerves and feelings. "Why was I nervous? You're always afraid of failing, of being disqualified, of pulling a muscle or being injured in some other way," Tebogo's mother told AFP. The athlete, on the other hand, was very calm. "You can't run a race if you're stressed," he said. He used his usual techniques to relax, such as listening to traditional music.

Tebogo wins a heat at the World Championships in Budapest. GETTY IMAGES
Tebogo wins a heat at the World Championships in Budapest. GETTY IMAGES

Seratiwa added: "Letsile is not only representing Botswana, he is carrying the flag for the whole of Africa. I am very proud of that. The world may see him as a rising star in athletics, but when he comes back to Botswana, he's my humble and respectful son." She noticed her son's love of sport at an early age. "Like most children in Africa, he played football, but soon realised he was born to run and went from strength to strength at successive World U-20 World Championships.

In the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, he won the 100m. A year later, in Cali, Colombia, he finished second in the 200m. It was there that he confounded all those who had expected him to be just another long-distance athlete. It was also where he emulated his idol, Bolt.

In the final, he turned around and gestured and smiled at the 100m silver medallist, Bouwahjgie Nkrumie of Jamaica, as he approached the finish line. "It wasn't any kind of disrespect to him, it was just a gesture. I just wanted everyone at home to enjoy the race and have a little reminder of what Usain used to do." Seratiwa said.