Tuesday, October 19, 2021

BAA denies side-lining short-sprint runners

The Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) has denied that it is deliberately neglecting, and by extension, sabotaging its other short-sprint athletes at the expense of 400m and 800m disciplines.

Of late, the athletics mother body has come under scrutiny after failing to help the men’s 400x100m relay team qualify for the ongoing IAAF World Championships despite posting times that put them among the best in the world.

With Botswana doing well in the 400m and 800m track events, the association is alleged to be deliberately sidelining other athletics disciplines such as the 100m and 200m events.

Just in June this year, Botswana’s 400mx100m relay team, comprising of Karabo Mothibi, Keene Motukisi, Xholani Talane and Ditiro Sebele, broke the national record when they ran 38.62 seconds at the Southern Region Senior Championships which were held in Zimbabwe.

The time ranks the local boys among the top 8 in the world this season. Of the 16 countries competing at the World Championships, only powerhouses like Canada, China, Great Britain, Germany, Jamaica and the United States of America have run better times than them this season.

However, following their heroics at the regional championships, the team is said to have been neglected and not given help to qualify it for the World Championships.

In desperation, the quartet then resorted to sponsor themselves to compete at the Warri Relays in Nigeria, where they came second behind the hosts, recording a time of 40.21 seconds.

“Given the strong showing by the country’s 400mx100m men’s relay team, they should have been given a chance. However, they were sidelined and were left to fend for themselves,” a source said.

According to the source, with Botswana doing well in the 400m and 800m, the BAA hierarchy has now opted to concentrate on the said disciplines at the expense of others.

“It is common knowledge that athletes such as Isaac Makwala and Baboloki Thebe are excellent on the 100m and 200m, but they have since been diverted to specialise on 400m discipline, which is the favoured discipline of the leadership,” the source revealed.

Given the good times both Makwala and Thebe have in the two disciplines, the source said it was possible that had they been in the current 400mx100m relay, the team would have posted far much better times.

Reached for comment, athletics coach Thatayaone Lefatshe lamented the “treatment given to the team,” saying it was discouraging for the athletes.

“As far as time can tell, these boys could have qualified to compete at the World Championships. If you look at the times they ran this year, it is obvious they had a better season and stood a chance to qualify,” Lefatshe opined.

The outspoken Lefatshe, who has of late been vocal on the issue, also concurred that some disciplines, like the 400m and 800m are being favoured at the expense of others.

“Of late, there seems to be a flawed thinking among the BAA that our forte is in the 400m and 800m disciplines. I have heard this argument from some quarters within both the BAA and the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) and this is worrying,” he said.

“While the debate has mainly focussed on the men’s 400x100m relays, we should also not forget that the ladies 400x100m relay has also been sidelined despite showing a lot of promise. This is a worrying development.”

Reached for comment, BAA vice president Kenneth Kikwe repudiated the claims, saying “it was unfortunate that the team did not get the support it expected”.

“Unfortunately, we could not take the team to more qualifiers as we had depleted the funds allocated to us this financial year. We tried to coax the BNSC to give us monies but they informed us they were also running dry,” Kikwe explained.

According to the BAA vice president, with Botswana sending a youth team to Kenya for the IAAF World Championships almost at the same time as the ones going to the World Relays, the BAA finances were stretched and the team was dropped.

“We had called the team into camp while we were negotiating with the BNSC for more funds but we had to drop it from going to the World Relays when we were told there was no money,” he explained.

Another factor, according to Kikwe, was that there are not many relay races in the region. As a result, it became even more difficult for the team to get qualifying opportunities.

Kikwe, however, conceded that given the times posted by the team, it is not outside the realm of reality that they could have qualified for the World Championships.

“If they could have gone to the World Relays and posted the time they have done, they would have gone to the finals and would have qualified outright,” he said.

He said going forth, BAA would try everything possible to ensure the team is given a chance to qualify.

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