Botswana will send a team of at least 20 athletes to represent the country at the Africa Senior Track and Field Championships billed for Benin towards the end of this month.
The elite team will be composed of athletes who are preparing for Olympic qualifiers overseas as well as those who have already qualified for the London Summer Olympics.
Speaking in an interview, the Botswana Athletics Association (BAA)’s Public Relations Officer, Ramatshaba, said they expect all the country’s elite athletes to take part at the championships.
Among the athletes expected to attend the championship will be the world’s current reigning women’s 400 meters runner, Amantle Montsho.
Ramatshaba said that, considering the magnitude of the championships in the continent, the games can be used to gauge the country’s preparations for the Olympics.
He said apart from the athletes who are training overseas, there is also a group of locally based athletes who will be part of the twenty-member athletics team. Ramatshaba said the locally-based team will leave the country for the championships on the 23rd of this month and will be joined on the 24th by the overseas contingent.
“This will be one of the most crucial events in our calendar this year. Apart from looking at our athletes’ preparedness for the Olympics, it will also give some of these athletes a last opportunity to qualify for the Olympics as it will sum up our qualification preparations,” Ramatshaba said.
He added that, going into the championships, they are hopeful that a number of athletes, among them the country’s 400 x 400 meters relay team, can qualify. The team has been showing signs of good potential and the Ramatshaba believes it is just a matter of time before they make the Olympic team.
“This team is currently the best in the continent and they seem to be peaking with every race. They are currently 18th on the qualifying rankings and will only need to move two places to qualify,” Ramatshaba said.
After showing great improvement and coming second behind Great Britain in Poland recently, the country’s relay showed more improvement this past Thursday in Nigeria as they stormed to pole position during a race there.
Ramatshaba said that what is now left for the relay team is to compete to beat their time, not just to win the championship. While good signs are showing for the 400 meters relay, signs are not that good for the country’s 400 x 100 meters relay.
One of the team’s core members, Yatea Kambepera, has been sidelined with an injury for at least four weeks. With no immediate replacement for the up and coming 100 meters’ running sensation, Ramatshaba says the team is likely to suffer.
The Africa senior championships will start on the 26th of this month and end on the 1st of July.