Athletics and Boxing remain the only codes that have offered Botswana some measure of achievements in international competitions. The achievements start from Zone VI championships, Commonwealth Games and the All Africa games.
Every time there are competitions of such magnitude, many Batswana expect that Botswana will achieve something from both codes. The only major international competition that still remains elusive is the Olympics Games. Botswana is yet to win a medal in the Olympic Games and this year it might be the same old story.
Athletics still remain the only code in Botswana to have reached the finals twice.
It all started in Sydney, Australia, in 2000 when 800-metre runner, Dube, achieved his feat. Four years down the line, in Athens, Greece, the 400 by 400-metres relay team also reached the finals. What can be taken note of is that Botswana only finished in the top seven in both finals.
Boxing has also fared badly at the Olympics and how they will fare this year also remains to be seen.
It’s only about three months to the Olympics and our athletes are yet to start vigorous training.
“As I am talking to you, ten local athletes have already booked their places for this year’s Olympics that will be held in Beijing, China. More others still have a chance to make it. But the most unfortunate thing is that we have not trained the way we would like to because the Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) is decrying lack of funds and there is little we can do,” said the Botswana Athletics Association technical officer, Bobby Gaseitsiwe.
Gaseitsiwe told Sunday Standard that this is the time that all codes gearing for the Olympics should just be making final touches. Gaseitsiwe also expressed worry over the financial problems decried by BNOC and feared that might result in them not sending as many athletes as they are supposed to.
“As I said, we are going to send more than ten athletes. Those athletes who have made it did so because they met the requirements of the Olympics but not through other means like the Wild Card. Now, imagine, there is a possibility that we might send less than ten athletes because of lack of funds. This would be painful bearing in mind that all our athletes who have made it have potential to bring home something,” he said.
Nevertheless, Gaseitsiwe told Sunday Standard that their focus for the Olympics is not to aim for medals, but to perform better than the previous Games. He said aiming for medals can put athletes under unnecessary pressure and cause them to bow out early.
“Our aim is to at least finish in the top five. But as you know anything is possible in the finals and everybody is capable of winning. We will try our best at the forthcoming Olympics and, hopefully, it will be better than the last ones,” he said.
Familiar faces in the athletics squad who might reach the medal stages are: Gable Garenamotse (Long Jump), Amantle Montsho (400 m), California Molefhe (400 m) and high jumper, Kabelo Kgosiemang. Although he has of recent been blowing hot and cold, Garenamotse’s experience at international level can help him. He won silver medals at both the 2002 and 2006 Commonwealth Games that were held in Manchester and Melbourne, respectively. In Australia he even broke the national record of 8.17 meters to 8.27 meters. At the previous Olympics, Montsho qualified via Wild Card but she has since showed that she has what it takes to be counted among the best in the world. Her graph is on the terrific rise because she has been winning both local and international events.
At the age of 22, Kgosiemang looks to have a bright future ahead of him. He is the current national record holder and shocked the world at the 2006 African Athletics Championships. Bearing in mind that he has been at some of the best training institutions he might as well pull a surprise.
After failing by a whisker at bigger international events, Molefhe is once again back and might be the country’s hope.
Other athletes who have made it are Gakologelwang Mashetu, in 400 meters and Ndabile Bashingile in the marathon category.
The 400 meters relay team has also qualified for Beijing but it is yet to be finalised. According to Gasetsiwe, there are many athletes who can make it to the team, but it will only be finalised a few weeks before the start of the games.
In Boxing all eyes will be on Thato Batshegi and Khumiso Ikgopoleng. In the past, both boxers were archrivals because Ikgopoleng’s camp accused the Botswana Boxing Association of favouring Batshegi. The accusations were tenser just before the 2006 Commonwealth games. Both boxers have since qualified and it is up to them to surpass the performance of the previous ones.