Jan. 15, 2008
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois men's track and field star Gakologelwang Masheto has been selected as a member of the Botswana Olympic team that will compete in Beijing, China, at the Olympic Games in August, as announced by the Botswana Athletics Association (BAA).
"It has always been my dream to run at the Olympics wearing the colors of my native country, and now it is coming true," Masheto said. "I have been working extremely hard to achieve this goal, and I feel like my dedication to running is paying dividends. To qualify for the Olympics means a lot to me and the University of Illinois track and field program. I want to thank my high school coach, Adam Letham, my current coach, Wayne Angel and the BAA for the support they are giving me. I'm so excited and I can't wait to get to Beijing."
Masheto was selected to the Olympic team based on his national and world ranking as well as his `A' standard qualification time of 45.41 in the 400 meters, which he ran at the Willie Williams Classic while competing for the Illlini on March 16, 2007. He currently has the second-fastest 400 meters time in Botswana, after finishing the 2007 season ranked No. 14 in the world in the indoor 400 meters and No. 41 in the world in the outdoor 400 meters.
The Muan, Botswana, native had a breakthrough season for Illinois in 2007 after spending the previous year at the University of Botswana. Masheto earned All-America status twice last year after taking fifth in the 400m at the NCAA Indoor Championships and fourth in the 400m at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. A three-time Big Ten champion in 2007 (600 meters indoor, 400 meters and 4x400m relay outdoor), Masheto also set Illinois school records in both the 400m and 600m indoor and won the special invitational 400 meters at the Drake Relays in April against a world-class pool of athletes.
Masheto has already had success on the international stage, as a semi-finalist in the 400m at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games and a bronze medalist in the 4x400m relay at the 2006 African Championships.
Masheto will join nine Botswana athletes already selected by the BAA to compete at Beijing in August, including 400m runners Amantle Montsho and California Molefe.
"Our 4x400m team is one of the best in the world," said Bobby Gaseitsiwe, senior technical officer in athletics for the BAA. "It has the potential to surprise many people. In fact, we are dreaming of an Olympic medal in the 4x400m."
Masheto will follow in the footsteps of former Illini great Bobby True, who competed in the 800 meters at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. In Beijing, Masheto will be the first 400-meter runner to represent Illinois at the Olympics since the late Herb McKinley, who won three medals for Jamaica in 1952.
"We're all very proud and excited for `Shoes' to represent Illinois in Beijing," Illinois men's track and field coach Wayne Angel said. "His hard work and dedication continues to pay huge dividends for him. Shoes will be a great ambassador for the Illini nation in China. There's no doubt in my mind that he will make us all proud."