The Botswana Athletics Olympic coach, Justice Dipeba, says the country’s athletes may surprise many and finish in podium positions at the forthcoming Rio Olympics. Speaking in an interview withSunday Standard Sports, the coach said given the talented pool of athletes the country has, podium finishes are a possibility. “At this moment in time, I cannot say we will bring a certain number of medals, but we may pull a surprise,” the Olympic team coach said. So far, four athletes, among them Nijel Amos, Isaac Makwala, Onkabetse Nkobolo and Baboloki Thebe have, alongside the country’s men 400 X 400 metres relay, managed to qualify for the Olympics, which are billed for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from the 5th to the 21st of August this year. While the hopes of the country for a medal largely rest on the shoulders of Amos, Dipeba could not rule out the possibility that other athletes, among them Makwala as well as the men’s relay team can pull off a surprise and bring home a medal. The coach was in particular optimistic of the prospects of the relay team. Aside from the likes of Amos, Makwala and Nkobolo, who look set to be the main men in the relay team, there are other athletes in the form of Thebe, Karabo Sibanda, Zacharia Kamberuka and Pako Seribe, who are pushing for inclusion in the team. With a pool of contenders for a berth in the relay team having swelled so much, the national coach admitted he has a nice selection conundrum going into this year’s Olympic Games.
“It is good to have a pool of athletes like this because if I have the likes of Amos, Makwala and Nkobolo going through the rounds in individual events at the games, I will have other athletes to rely on. I have looked at the Olympics schedule and athletes doing individual races may have to run three races in a row and will have no break between the semifinals and finals. This will therefore give me a good number of athletes on the sides that can also perform at the same level with those doing the individual races, so I will be able to rest my key athletes whenever needed,” Dipeba explained. With only six athletes eligible for the relay team, the competition for places will be tough and athletes will have to improve their worth for inclusion in the team, something which the coach can only hope will up performances and competitiveness in a team which it is hoped can make the podium. As for Makwala, Dipeba is hoping his charge will this time around make the podium in the international arena. After years of near misses, Dipeba says they are optimistic the athlete can finally strike home. Over the years, Makwala has flattered to deceive, posting brilliant times and making the finals only to falter at the last moment. However, Dipeba believes should Makwala run his race at the games and execute it perfectly, he has a chance of winning a medal. “We have talked about it. What we have always wanted is to make the podium and get a medal. As to the type of medal we want, we have not discussed that as all we want is a medal,” the coach explained. Still on the team, Dipeba is optimistic other athletes like Leungo Matlhaku and Boitumelo Masilo, just to mention two, may make it to the Olympics.
The two have so far posted some impressive performances this season, putting them in the periphery of qualifying. “If you look at the performances so far, two athletes, they looked the most likely to qualify for the games. Masilo in particular, given his race and performance looks likely to make it,” the coach said. Meanwhile, the coach has expressed happiness with the preparations his team is having ahead of qualifiers as well as the Rio Olympics. According to Dipeba, preparations are going very well for the team. He said so far, the athletes have been able to have camps while also having a chance to compete in events outside the country as part of preparations. As part of preparations, the coach said a physiotherapist and a psychologist have been availed to the team to work with; a development which he said is very welcome. Dipeba concluded that with such necessary personnel being availed, preparing athletes for the Olympics will be better.