Sunday, September 27, 2020

Botswana’s first ever strong Olympic medal hopefuls

Botswana has never won a single medal at the Olympic Games and many Batswana have, for years, been wondering whether the country will ever win a bronze in this year’s Olympics being held in Beijing, China.

The best achievements for Botswana were in both the 2000 and 2004 competitions, which were held in Sydney, Australia and Athens, Greece, respectively.
In Sydney, 800m runner, Glody Dube, reached the finals while also in 2004 the 400m by 400m relay team reached the finals and both came second best.

This time Botswana has sent a team of 12 athletes searching for the first glory. However, in the few months before the Beijing Olympics, many people still doubted Botswana’s chances because preparations were not thorough. Even the athletics coach, Bobby, once expressed a concern saying the team’s training schedule was behind time. Lack of inadequate training was even evident in the boxing team that only managed to send two boxers while in the past they used to send more than three. Botswana could not send more boxers because they were eliminated in the stages they used to pass with ease.

Although sports results are sometimes unpredictable, so far there are two athletes who stand a good chance of winning a medal.

400m runner, Montsho, 24, and high jumper, Kabelo Kgosiemang, 22, have been impressive in the recent international competitions. Just three months before the Olympics, Montsho stunned the world by clocking this year’s world record of 49.83 to win the African championships.

Already, all other contestants at the most expensive Olympics, worth £20bn, are already trailing behind. The training she received at the high performance centre in Senegal for the past year seems to be paying dividends for the Maun-born lady.

Montsho, on the other hand, must avoid complacency because other athletes might take advantage of that. It can be remembered that during the 2004 Olympics, when Botswana came second, Nigeria got a bronze medal. The same Nigerian team was the one which Botswana beat to second position to win gold at the 2003 All Africa Games held in their own backyard. Under the tutelage of Wolfgang Ritzdorf of Germany, Kgosiemang also seems to be on his way to fiercely contest for a medal in China. He is also an African champion after clearing 2.34 and his training in Germany also seems to be paying off for the Rakhuna-born lad.
Both Montsho and Kgosiemang have so far received standing ovations from some big media organisations around the world.

However, the Botswana National Olympic Committee’s administrative officer, Andrew Kamanga, told Sunday Standard all eyes should not only be on Montsho and Kgosiemang since there are others who might make a huge impact.

“Most of our athletes have potential of making it in Beijing. For instance, 200m runner, Fanuel Kenosi, might do the unexpected. I have a feeling that if he can overcome all the stage fright at the games and pass the heats, he can go far. Once one is beyond the heats stages, anything is possible. People should definitely watch out for the young boy, he is going places,” he said.

On the other hand, boxer Khumiso Ikgopoleng should not be totally ruled out because he has a tendency of causing upsets where little is expected.

Other local athletes at the Olympics are Thato Batshegi (Boxing), Ndabili Bashingile (Marathon runner) Onalenna Baloyi (800m), California Molefhe (400m) Gable Garenamotse (long jump), Gakologelwang Mashetu (400m) and the swimming duo of John Kamyuka and Samantha Paxinos. It is the first time for Botswana to send swimmers to the Olympics. Both of them did not even meet the minimum requirements of the Olympics but they managed to go and participate through a wild card, which is normally given to young and promising athletes. Montsho was the beneficiary of the wildcard at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and it helped her significantly, and that could be the case with Paxinos and Kamyuka.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.