The London Summer Olympics have come and gone. As expected, Botswana competed and experienced mixed fortunes and emotions. In the process, for the first time ever, Botswana won her maiden Olympic medal.
While the Olympic team is on a countrywide tour and the Olympic dust settles, for the Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) Chief Executive Officer, Tuelo Serufho, and his staff, lessons have been learned and it is now time to reflect and map a way forward to the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and the Rio 2016 Olympics.
For Serufho, these were his maiden Olympics as the BNOC CEO and he will be now looking back to see where they got it right or wrong.
He says that, while he ‘previously had an idea of what it takes to prepare and compete at the Olympics, having been involved so closely with preparations and competition as well as being hands on has made him understand things much better.
Serufho told the Sunday Standard that there were many lessons he and his committee learnt during the preparations for the games as well as during the competitions that will help them as they prepare for future games.
“One of the major lessons learnt concerns managing of injuries incurred by athletes. I believe some of the injuries incurred by our athletes could have been well managed had we started our preparations on time. While our preparations went well, we were a little bit late and athletes had to try and qualify within a short period of time. This puts athletes under pressure and if they get injured, they rush the healing time because they want to qualify and this only aggravates the injuries. In future, we will need to start to qualify well on time so that if athletes get injured, they can have enough time to recuperate,” the BNOC CEO observed. “Another lesson we learned is that we need to be aggressive in our preparations. We do not have to compromise. This involves looking for sponsors to augment the funds we get from the government well in time so that our athletes can be given adequate training.”
He said they are now in the process of negotiating with stakeholders, including government and potential sponsors to put forth money needed for athletes’ preparations. He said as such, the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture is working hard to try and convince the Government to find other ways of financing preparations besides doing it through the Government’s recurrent budget.
“We know the importance of preparations but financial problems are holding us back. If it was according to us, there are some of our athletes who are not at school and if funds were available, they would be starting their preparations now,” the BNOC CEO said.
He added that another major lesson they learnt was that programmes of local athletes must be harmonized to ensure that they can train together with the National team coaches well before the game begin.
“If you look at our 400 x 400 meters relay, we have athletes training under different managers at different places and with different programmes. This makes it difficult for these athletes to come together and compete and thus makes qualifying difficult. Going forward, we will have to engage the athletes, their managers and our national team coaches to harmonise programmes so our athletes can prepare together for major games,” Serufho said.
He added that this will also involve seeing local athletes’ contracts with managers as a precaution to ensure athletes are involved in many competitions before major games, thus ensuring they are not burnt out when they represent the country. He added that such an arrangement will also let the national team coaches to have time with athletes and know them better.
The BNOC CEO said they have already sent letters to different sporting codes who are BNOC affiliates to identify coaches who they believe can lead their respective teams. Serufho said the step is to ensure that these coaches can start looking at potential national team athletes as well as to ensure that when opportunity arises, they can be further developed.
Meanwhile, the BNOC CEO said the fact that they did not manage to take their targeted number of athletes to the Olympics should not be viewed as failure.
“Yes, we did not manage it, we did not fail. Whatever the number of athletes we took, our target was to bring at least two medals from the Olympics and we did not do any bad. We managed to bring a medal and only missed the second medal by 0.003 seconds, which is not so much of a failure,” the BNOC CEO concluded.