Track star Masheto to represent Botswana at Olympics

By Kevin Olsen

Gakologelwang Masheto, a native of Muan, Botswana, has been in the United States for less than two years, but he will soon be leaving for yet another part of the world. In January, Masheto was named to the 2008 Botswana Olympic team by the Botswana Athletic Association. He will compete as part of the 4×400-meter relay, as well as individually in the 400 meters, in Beijing.

Known to teammates, coaches and acquaintances alike as “Shoes,” this quiet competitor lets his legs do all the talking. On Feb. 8, Masheto, a 400-meter runner, set an NCAA record in the 500 meters at the New Balance Invitational in New York. It was the fastest time in the world this year.

Unlike the United States, where there are time trials and stages to qualify for the Olympics, Masheto was named to the Botswanan squad solely based on his times. He is a two time All-American, finishing fifth in the 400 meters at the 2007 Indoor Championships and fourth in the 400 meters at the 2007 Outdoor Championships with a personal best time of 45.41 seconds.

Masheto also placed first in the 400 meters and second in the 200 meters at the 2006 African University Games and reached the semifinals in the 400 meters at the 2006 Commonwealth Games while attending the University of Botswana.

“He’s a natural. He has the natural ability to flow when he runs and he has the right attitude,” said Illinois head coach Wayne Angel said. “He’s been doing this for quite a while so he understands the rhythm of the race.”