At the 2017 World Athletics Championships, Botswana's Isaac Makwala was forced to run a solo 200 metres in front of a packed crowd at a wet London Stadium.

The surreal sight came after officials had banned the medal contender from competing in both the 200m heats and the 400m final, as he supposedly had norovirus.

Makwala was considered the main threat to South Africa's world record holder Wayde van Niekerk in the 400m, but was led away by security as he turned up for the final.

Although it was too late in that event, Makwala was eventually freed from a period of quarantine and allowed to race a 200m heat on his own.

He needed to finish in under 20.53 seconds to reach the semi-finals and duly did so, clocking 20.20 before performing press-ups at the finish line to prove he was in fine health.

Remarkably, Makwala clocked an even quicker time of 20.14 in his semi-final which took place only two hours later.

Although the final, where he finished sixth, proved a step too far, Makwala had handled the situation perfectly.

His strength of character has inspired other athletes and is still in the memory of Botswana's Chef de Mission for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, Yarona Sharp.

Isaac Makwala, who ran a solo 200m at the World Championships in London in 2017, won two gold medals at Gold Coast 2018 ©Getty Images
Isaac Makwala, who ran a solo 200m at the World Championships in London in 2017, won two gold medals at Gold Coast 2018 ©Getty Images

"That's the type of team that we are putting together," said Sharp, a Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) Executive Board member.

"One that can reinvent itself when circumstances just don't go the way that were planned. 

"I hope I bring home a lot of success."

Botswana has enjoyed superb results in the 400m and has established itself as a world-leading nation over one lap of the track.

Makwala triumphed at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games - leading home a 1-2 for his nation in front of Baboloki Thebe.

Both men were then part of the team which topped the podium in the 4x400m relay, alongside Leaname Maotoanong and Onkabetse Nkobolo.

Not content with that, Botswana also won the women's 400m as the now retired Amantle Montsho, the world champion in 2011, came home for gold.

She then won bronze in the 4x400m relay, and running has also provided Botswana with both of its Olympic medals.

Nijel Amos, who is still competing, won the first with silver in the 800m at London 2012.

At Tokyo 2020 last year, Makwala and Thebe stood on an Olympic podium after bagging 4x400m bronze with Zibane Ngozi and Bayapo Ndori.

"Speaking for myself as a citizen, as a Motswana, our performance at the Gold Coast Games was nothing short of amazing," said Sharp.

"We are a small population and in comparison to other nations per capita, we fare with the top countries.

"The Gold Coast Games gave us a lot of pride. And it just cemented that we have talent in the country.

"When something like that happens, it validates that you need to continue, and to remain dedicated and committed, to grow sport in Botswana." 

Relay success means that Botswana clearly has strength in depth in its running ranks.

Amantle Montsho won the women's 400m at Gold Coast 2018, before her retirement ©Getty Images
Amantle Montsho won the women's 400m at Gold Coast 2018, before her retirement ©Getty Images

"I think for us, as a citizen, we start running at a young age and just nurture that into professional competition," said Sharp, a former international basketball player.

Botswana is sending 26 athletes to Birmingham 2022, with boxing, cycling, judo, swimming, squash and weightlifting joining athletics.

The team will be a combination of experienced athletes and those who are looking to break through. 

"For any Games, major or not, we get stuck to our television sets," said Sharp.

"Botswana has had its biggest success at any major Games at the Commonwealth Games. 

"It affords other sporting codes and athletes the opportunity to compete at major events. 

"We have other sport codes, that ordinarily wouldn't compete at the Olympics, being given an opportunity to do so. 

"It broadens our pool of elite competition opportunities, which is positive." 

Sharp will be serving as Chef de Mission for the first time after being elected for a second four-year term with BNOC last year.

"It's a nerve-wracking and exciting role," she said. 

"You've literally been given the opportunity to take responsibility of perhaps among the biggest assets of the country, which are our athletes. 

"The truth is, the Chef de Mission is nothing without the athletes and that's who I look forward to prioritise. 

"I look forward also to creating the environment for optimal performance. 

"Our aim is we are putting together a very competitive team, that is versatile and is adaptable." 

In 2021, four of the seven electable seats on the BNOC Executive Board went to women - a rare situation in sports governance where men normally dominate.

Botswana won Olympic bronze at Tokyo 2020 in the men's 4x400m relay ©Getty Images
Botswana won Olympic bronze at Tokyo 2020 in the men's 4x400m relay ©Getty Images

Sharp, an attorney who earned a law degree in Johannesburg, said she remembers her basketball career for Botswana fondly.

"It was out of this world, I enjoyed it," she said.

"I started at under-18 and I went up the ranks. 

"I did under-20 and the senior national team as well. I competed a lot regionally wearing our national colours.

"When I started I played point guard, I was quite fast on my feet. It's a game of skill and speed as my coaches would say! 

"I grew taller than most people so they used to place me as a small forward. When there were other forwards who were taller than me in the team, I used to play as a guard." 

Botswana has won five gold medals in its Commonwealth Games history, with the three secured in Gold Coast their best ever performance.

The country first competed in Christchurch in 1974 and has been ever-present since, with the exception of the Edmonton 1978 Games.

As with other nations, Botswana is beginning to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"When COVID hit and nobody knew what we were dealing with, the impact was felt," said Sharp.

"We had to halt all kinds of sport events. 

"The Government priorotised national health and a lot of sporting activities were put to the back burner, and understandably so. 

"We used to see some of our athletes train from home, so the impact of COVID was felt in that way. 

"There has been a relaxation and we've had the opportunity for our team to have local and international training camps. 

"Some are scheduled between now and July."

Nijel Amos won Botswana's first Olympic medal at London 2012 ©Getty Images
Nijel Amos won Botswana's first Olympic medal at London 2012 ©Getty Images

Botswana's athletes are due to attend a training camp in Cardiff between July 11 and 26, before the Birmingham 2022 Opening Ceremony on July 28.

"We have a tradition nationally to go in and just get used to the environment," said Sharp, who added that the team would be escaping the "cold" of Botswana's winter come Games time.

Sharp attended the open day site visits in Birmingham in March.

"The level of preparation is impressive," she said. 

"Obviously England has COVID protocols which are more relaxed, but protocols are still an important measure of the Games. 

"There will be endless tests, both rapid and PCR. There was an assurance that if someone has COVID the protocols will be followed.

"Outside of that we cannot wait. 

"I can't wait to see the transformation of the schools [Villages] in terms of set-up, the whole place is going to transform. 

"The technical and organising teams seem to be on top of the world about it. 

"You can tell it's going to be a very electric experience in Birmingham, and I'm confident the Games will be a resounding success."