By Anita Rannoba
A long road lies ahead for Botswana’s elite karate star Ofentse Bakwadi as he prepares to qualify and represent the country at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in Japan.
Besieged by an acute lack of funds and support to pursue his Olympic dream, the former Union Federation of Africa Karate (UFAK) gold medallist may find himself a spectator when the Olympic summer rolls in two years time.
Despite being one of the country’s best prospects with a better shot at making the Olympics, Bakwadi has not had financial support and has now carried upon himself the burden of financing his own way to Tokyo.
Just this past week, Bakwadi had to dig deep in his own pockets to finance his trip to 24th World Karate Tournament (WKT) in Spain to ensure he is still ranked among the World’s ten (10) best Karatekas, a ranking which will ensure qualification to the Olympics.
Despite the financial difficulties, which renders his efforts to qualify almost impossible, the local lad performed well but did not make the finals.
According to his mentor Shihan Mpho Bakwadi, Ofentse was the only athlete who was self sponsoring himself to the WKT; highlighting that looking for sponsorship by himself is draining and stealing his time to train and prepare hence ending up losing.
“The problem is instead of him training and getting ready he spends his time looking for sponsors but that will not be a problem now since someone has been assigned to assist and take his role while he prepares,” Mpho said.
Shihan Bakwadi said for Ofentse to attend and compete at the WKT he had to sell t-shirts to finance his own trip.
He noted that with the local Karateka expected to attend at least five k1 tournaments in a year in order to qualify for Tokyo 2020, the journey is likely to get even tougher for Ofentse if he does not get the necessary financial backing.
According to Shihan Bakwadi, should Ofentse get a financial backing, he will; then be able to focus on his training and preparations, something which will stand him an even better chance of qualifying.
Shihan Bakwadi pleaded with Batswana, Companies and organizations to put in a helping hand and assist them with sponsorship.
He indicated that while it may be a dream for Ofentse to proceed to Tokyo 2020, it will also be an upliftment for Botswana’s sport if he makes the grade.
Meanwhile, Shihan Bakwadi said they will be hosting Ofentse Bakwadi Tokyo 2020 fundraising dinner on the 22nd of this month to try raise funds to finance Ofentse’s Olympic quest.
The dinner will be held at Saffron Restaurant at Sebele Mall and tickets are sold at P200 a person.