Botswana is in a race against time to qualify some of her top stars and relay teams for the upcoming Tokyo 2020/1 Olympics.
With just three months to go, the country has only managed to qualify six (6) athletes for the world’s biggest sporting showpiece.
The six athletes are boxing duo Sadie Kenosi and Rajab Mahomed Otukile and athletics’ women 400m stars Amantle Montsho, Christine Botlogetswe, Galefele Moroko and men’s 800m star Nijel Amos.
However, some of the country’s biggest 400m male track stars like Isaac Makwala, Baboloki Thebe and Karabo Sibanda, just to mention but a few are yet to qualify.
The country is also yet to qualify both its men and women’s 4X400m relays as well as the newly introduced 4X400m mixed relays.
Now as time runs out, team Botswana’s Tokyo 2020/1 Chef de Mission (CDM) Tshepo Sitale says they are vying to have the qualification of individual athletes and relays teams run concurrently.
Sitale says before COVID-19 hit, the BNOC and sporting codes had plans for qualifiers. He however says the advent of the pandemic forced them to rethink their plans.
He says at the moment, they have sent both individual and relay teams to Potchefstroom to help them qualify.
“They are in South Africa not only for the relays but also for individual competition. We want them to qualify and we also want them to qualify for the relays,” Sitale says.
The team CDM says he is optimistic that many of the country’s star athletes will qualify, adding there are signs of improvement in the times they run.
While the men’s 4X400m relay is currently ranked 11th in the world, placing it among the top 16 which is the criteria for qualification, Sitale says they cannot rest in their laurels.
“We have to keep our team within the top 16. We cannot allow for a repeat of 2012 Rio Olympics qualification. Back then we nearly had a situation where in Europe, countries quickly organised competitions, posted better times and we ended up seeing our women’s team missing out,” he says.
“We have to make sure we keep on competing so that when others improve their times, we also improve our times,” Sitale explains.
The team CDM says he is very hopeful that by the time of the World Athletics Relays and the African Senior Championships in Athletics, individual athletes’ performances will have peaked.
“Our athletes have to be at their best individually for them to improve the time of our relay teams,” he explains.
The world relays are scheduled to take place in Silesia, Poland on the 1st and 2nd of May while the African Senior Championships will take place in Algeria from the 1st to the 5th of June this year.
Both the country’s male and female 4x400m relays have already qualified for the world relays, and if they finish within the top 8, their place at the Tokyo Olympics would be guaranteed.
Still on the Olympic qualifiers, Sitale says they have roped in a strong medical team to work with the athletes as they attempt to qualify.
“We have a strong medical support team, a doctor, a physiotherapist and a psychologist who started working with the team last year.”
“It is a lesson learnt from one of our previous games that we need to have people working with the team continuously,” he says.
He says from past experiences, they have learnt that it is not helpful if athletes and the medical support team only get to meet each other on the eve of competitions which makes them strangers.
Going into the Olympics, Botswana has set herself a target of two (2) medals after the medal target was reduced from four (4) originally targeted.