With the Africa junior championships, due to be hosted in Botswana fast approaching, the Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) says it expects to field a bigger and stronger contingent to represent the country.
BAA president, Moses Bantsi, said that the association intends to field at least 117 athletes in the championships.
“We will be competing in each and every event during the championships. For the first time in our athletics, we expect to field athletes in events like pole vault, walk as well as hammer throw,” Bantsi informed Standard Sport.
He further says the BAA intends to put in at least two athletes per individual event during the championships.
According to Bantsi, preparations are already underway to ensure that local athletes are well prepared for the event. The BAA president says the intention of his association is to put together a team that will compete well and not just participate.
He says they expect athletes from the newly introduced events to also put in a very strong showing, adding that they have already found coaches to train them.
“We have qualified coaches in the pole vault and walk events to help train the athletes. We also have our Cuban technical advisor who is very capable in both pole vault and hammer throw,” Bantsi says.
The BAA president says the bulk of the team for the championships will be drawn from the team that took part in the Supreme Council of Sports in Africa (SCSA) games in Swaziland at the end of last year.
“Most of these athletes are students and we are in talks with their coaches to help them with their training. Concerning those who are not at school, we are planning on holding training camps for them to ensure they get as much training as possible,” Bantsi said.
With close to 51 countries expected to take part in the event, the BAA chief says they expect very tough competition for local athletes more especially from Africa’s powerhouses like Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria, just to name a few.
With regards to the other upcoming major events, including the Olympics, Bantsi says the BAA intends to take anyone who shows potential to bring the country glory. He says as such, even some of the junior athletes who show tremendous potential will be considered.
“We have already taken some of these young athletes to the World Indoor Championships and we are willing to take more. To give you an example, we are already eyeing 18-year-old 400 m hurdles runner, Oarabile Babolai, who is also a member of our ladies 400 by 400 m relay to compete at the Olympics, either in the individual event or in the team event,” Bantsi further added.
Meanwhile, BAA says it is in negotiations with relevant stakeholders to sponsor the ladies team that took part at the Delhi Commonwealth Games for further training at the High Performance Centre in Senegal. Despite showing great potential, only one member of the team, which is dubbed ‘the dream team,’ Amantle Montsho, is based outside the country.
Bantsi says that the same opportunity will be afforded to all other athletes who are preparing for major events should funds be available.
The BAA chief says while his association would like to do more, financial limitations are hindering their progress.
He said that they will continue to strive for the best, adding that these challenges will not discourage them.