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July 28, 2002

Manchester, England – South Carolina’s Otukile Lekote, competing at the Commonwealth Games in Botswana’s blue and white uniform, ran the second fastest qualifying time to make the finals of the 800m. The finals will be run tomorrow.

Lekote was second in his heat with a time of 1:46.65. Joseph Mutua of Kenya ran the fastest time of the day, winning the heat with Lekote, at 1:46.43.

“OT ran a smart race again today,” said USC distance coach Stan Rosenthal. “He has a very good chance to medal tomorrow, he just has to stick to his race plan. He’s doing a great job.”

Lekote is a four-time NCAA champion with the Gamecocks who will return to Columbia for his final year later this month. Prior to the race Lekote answered a number of questions for

OT – You had the fastest qualifying time in the first round. Did you do anything special in your race or just run the normal race plan? Where you surprised your race was the fastest?

I didn’t do anything special. I just stuck to my usual race plan – to take it out fast and go to the finish line to qualify for the next round. It didn’t surprise me to have the fastest qualifying time. Everybody else was taking it easy to just qualify for the semifinals. I was in the first heat so you never know what the other heats would do, so I just went out fast and comfortable enough to reserve myself for today’s (Sunday) semifinal. I felt good throughout the race and I’m hoping I feel that way this afternoon at the semifinals.

What will you do in the semi-finals to make the finals? The idea is still to run my usual race, but a little faster this time because I had a little more challenge from pretty good guys. I do not have to do anything extra-ordinary, just stay focused and relaxed.

How are the Commonwealth Games? What is your goal? The Games are just great. Many world class athletes are here. Being able to shake hands with such athletes is just an awesome part of these games. These are basically friendly games. We compete during the day and socialize after competitions. it’s just great. Many athletes from the SEC and other conferences are here and we are supporting each other. My goal is to give my best in the Games and I’m pretty sure if I keep this goal than good things will happen. Right now I’m just taking the rounds one at a time.

Will you run on Botswana’s 4x400m relay? Who will be the other members for Botswana. I’m an alternate in the relay. We have enough guys. We have Johnson Kubisa, Lulu Basinyi, California Molefe, all from the World Championships team last year and a newcomer, who was an alternate last year, Oganeditse Moseki. They should be able to do a pretty good job without me.

You have run a lot of international meets this summer – what have you learned? I learned that there is not much difference between planning for a collegiate race and planning for an international race. The race plan remains the same in both levels of competition. I do not need any special tactics to win the races. I just have to stay relaxed and put my race plan on display. Everything then will be taken care of.

Anything special happen at the Games yet? Not much. What I like most about these games is that, like I said, we are not here to create rivalry and make enemies with our opponents. We came to celebrate being the Commonwealth Community through sports. We came to socialize with other members of the community. It’s evident from the way we mix with each other. We congratulate each other and wish each other good luck for their upcoming events. It’s just a great experience.