Saturday, November 27, 2021

A hurdle of sorts awaits Botswana relay teams

When Botswana national athletics team takes to the track at Silesia21 World Athletics Relays the on May Day, the focus will be on one thing – making it to the top 8.

They will be aware that finishing outside the top 8 will leave their qualification prospects in a precarious position, at least not with some athletics powerhouses skipping this year’s World Relays.

Should Botswana finish among the top 8 at the Silesia21 relays, it will guarantee the relay teams a place in Tokyo while also leaving local athletes with ample time to chase individual Olympic qualification.

With powerhouses like the United States of America (USA), Jamaica and Bahamas missing out due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Botswana will know they stand a better chance.

Local athletics analyst Billy Tambula says the importance of doing well at the World relays for Botswana cannot be underestimated.

“If our relay teams manage to finish in top 8 in 4x400m and 4x100m then they will qualify for Tokyo Olympics as well as Oregon 2021 World Athletics Championships. The good thing is we can also qualify by being amongst the top ranked teams in world,” he explained. 

He said while Botswana men’s 4x400m is currently in the top ranked 16 teams and qualifies for the Olympics, their place is not guaranteed as other countries also keep improving their times before the deadline for the qualification period.

Should Botswana not finish in the top 8 to seal their place in Tokyo, they will have to keep watching over their shoulders as others may post better times and push them out of the qualification bracket.

Tambula said with the USA and Jamaica not taking part, Botswana has a bigger and better chance of being in the Olympics. 

“With USA, Bahamas and Jamaica not taking part we stand a very good chance. But we still have other countries like Poland, Great Britain and Trinidad and Tobago who are as good us,” he pointed out.

Asked to predict how Botswana will perform, Tambula said it will depend on a lot of factors. 

“This is not easy to predict because of the Covid situation. Covid-19 test results before the race might also affect team line ups. It is a very tricky situation,” he explained.

Another factor which may affect the local teams, according to him, is the fact that they have had a start stop preparations schedule due to the ongoing pandemic. 

For her part, Daily News sports writer and analyst, Anastacia Sibanda said the relays will be of great importance to Botswana’s Tokyo aspirations.

She pointed out that currently, Botswana finds herself ranked 11th in the world for men’s 4X400m relay, a position she describes as ‘good yet dangerous at the same time.’ 

“We are ranked at position 11 and this position and by provision we are already in the Olympics. But the dangerous part is if other countries continue running and winning, they may push us back. Our only plan now is to work hard and push to top 8. This way we will have qualified for the Olympics,” Sibanda explained. 

On the absence of some of the powerhouses, Sibanda said it bodes well for Botswana’s relay teams.

“Truth is we do stand a chance of being in the Olympics. The last time we competed at the World Relays, we took a silver medal after finishing behind USA. Their absence is a blessing to us,” she opined.

“Both our men and women relay teams stand a very big chance of securing a position at Tokyo due to the absence of USA and Jamaica,” she continued.

Sibanda further pointed out that even the men’s 4X100m relay, which is making its World Relays debut, stands a good chance of parting in the Olympics.

She was however quick to point out that the most important element now is to focus more on preparations. 

“Remember, we have not been as active as other countries due to our limited resources. We might find out that other countries are ahead as they have better resources as compared to us,” she noted. 

Sibanda said the suspension of sporting activities more especially with regards to Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) has in a way affected the teams’ qualifications.

As such, she says there were fewer competitions for our national teams and teams only recently got to compete in South Africa. 

“Due to lack of proper training, our runners may likely suffer from injuries. This is where we need hands-on doctors and physiotherapists to be with our athletes at all times to ensure less injuries when they compete,” Sibanda concluded. 

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