Teen talent Ramokgopa making her mark in senior ranks

By Karien Jonckheere

Tumi Ramokgopa admitted the nerves kicked in when she lined up for the 400m hurdles at the final ASA Grand Prix meet of the season in Johannesburg last week. At just 16 years old, it was only her third race against senior athletes, she explained.

But the talented teen needn’t have worried. She stormed through the field to win in a time of 57.84 seconds, just six-hundredths of a second off the personal best she set a few days before.

That personal best sees her currently sitting top in the world in the under-18 ranks and fourth on the under-20 list for the 400m hurdles.

The Paris Olympics will come too soon for Ramokgopa, but she’s set her sights firmly on the World Junior Championships in Peru this August.

“I won’t lie, I’m shocked, but I’m proud of myself. I was scared before I ran because I was like: ‘Yoh, I’m running with seniors, I’m running with women,’” but you know, sometimes age doesn’t matter so I gave it my all. And I’m just grateful to God for giving me the strength,” said a thrilled Ramokgopa after her race at UJ.

Asked what her goal for the season is, the Prestige College Hammanskraal student explained: “I’m going for the SA [junior] record in the 400m hurdles and I want to see myself at World Juniors.”

Ramokgopa is coached by George Bradley who sees plenty of potential in his young charge, thanks to her impressive work ethic.

“Her main qualities that make me excited about her future in the sport are more related to her dedication, work ethic and already having a maturity about her,” said Bradley.

“For example, I was nervous about her racing against seniors in her first season doing 400m hurdles in 2023, as she is so used to winning. But she has shown that she can race ‘like a street-fighter’ if necessary – not only a great hurdle form but real substance. Some of the training for the long hurdles can be brutal. We minimise it due to her age, but she does it with zero complaining.”

Bradley explained that Ramokgopa has progressed from the sprint hurdles to the longer event with relative ease.

“Every year she is stronger, and she has developed a tremendous instinct as a hurdler, being able to make adjustments during a race if necessary.

“Tumi is an absolute pleasure to coach as she has an ingrained work ethic, strong listening skills and yet has an independent streak which just improves her ability to complete the assignment.”

As for just how far the talented teen can go, Bradley reckoned: “What she can achieve really depends on her continued focus and ability to avoid the typical distractions of her age group. Personally, I believe she can get right to the top, not only in SA, but in the world. So much depends on her path the moment she leaves school.”

Photo by Cecelia van Bers


Tebogo, Haingura and Sekgodiso light up the track at second ASA Grand Prix

By Karien Jonckheere

Botswana’s athletes stole the show at the second ASA Grand Prix meet of the season in Pretoria on Monday night.

Better known for his exploits over 100 and 200m, having medalled in both events at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest last year, Letsile Tebogo looked right at home in the 400m. The 20-year-old stormed to a comfortable victory in a new personal best of 44.29 seconds, so also securing Olympic qualification in the event.

Tebogo gave a hint of what he could do in the longer distance when he set a new world best of 30.69 seconds over 300m at the Simbine Curro Classic Shootout in Pretoria last month.

With his sights set firmly on the podium at Paris 2024, Tebogo told SuperSport: “No human is limited so you have to do everything that it takes.

“For us coming here it was just to check how the body was going to respond because we’ve been doing a lot of gym so you can see how the body runs and if I will get tired along the way.

As for what comes next, the world junior record holder over 100m added: “The plan for now, I think we’re going to rest for a week or two because it shows that the speed is there… the other plan for the Diamond Leagues is just to run and get used to them so that we cannot be scared when we meet in Paris at the Olympics.”

Earlier in the evening, Tebogo’s compatriot, Hethobogile Haingura claimed an Olympic qualifying time of his own in the men’s 800m.

A man on a mission to get to Paris, Haingura took to the front immediately and completed the two-lap event in 1:43.94, well under the required time, and also slicing a second and a half off his PB in the process.

The man from Botswana probably didn’t realise it at the time, but he had run the fastest ever 800m time on South African soil. The previous mark of 1:44.57 set back in 1996 in Cape Town belonged to Marius van Heerden, who sadly died of Covid in January 2021.

As Haingura collapsed to the track after his race, he was embraced by his elated training partner, Prudence Sekgodiso, who also produced an impressive performance in the women’s 800m on Monday night, dipping under the two-minute mark once again to take the win in 1:59.93. The 22-year-old South African set a new personal best of 1 minute 58.05 over 800m just a few weeks ago in Pretoria to also book her ticket to Paris.