Friday, June 9, 2023

Botswana’s new look relay team defies the odds

Before the just ended All Africa Games in Algiers, Algeria, Botswana’s 4x400m relay team was given little or no chance of bringing home a medal. The main worrisome factor was that almost all the cream de la cream of the team, with the exception of California Molefhe, were not there. However, Coach Bobby Gaseitsiwe was always optimistic that the team would emulate their predecessors of 2003.

In 2003, the relay team that comprised of Kagiso Kilego, Johnson Kubisa, Oganeditse Moseki and Molefhe did wonders by winning the gold medal ahead of seasoned campaigners like Nigeria and Ghana. The team even earned respect from a wealthy Nigerian businessman who gave each runner P3 500.

What actually puts the current team under tremendous pressure is the fact that a year ago the team performed pathetically in Helsinki, Finland, for World Championships. After the Helsinki championships, there were calls to reinforce the team with some of the former athletes. But it was only Molefhe who managed to come on board to lead the youthful athletes. Coach Gaseitsiwe was, however, always optimistic for the team to do well saying when they went to Nigeria in 2003 most of the athletes were relatively unknown. The relay team has since silenced their critics by defending the title Botswana won four years ago with relatively unknown athletes. The team that comprised of Obakeng Ngwigwa, Gakologelwang Masheto Isaac Makwala, Zacharia Kamberuka and Molefhe is now fired up for next year’s Olympics. The team, however, has a mammoth task for the Olympics because their predecessor managed to reach the 2004 finals in Greece.

Gaseitsiwe told The Sunday Standard that if the athletes can work hard and be focused anything could happen next year in China. He said it is only Molefhe who is experienced and he is helping the inexperienced ones a lot.

“There is no doubt that hard work pays. If we can work hard for the Olympics nothing can stop us to reach the finals and anything is possible in the finals. We went to Nigeria four years ago with an inexperienced team and brought something. We did it again in Algeria this year and I hope we will also try our best at the Olympics. Youngsters like Kamberuka have a bright future because he is still a secondary school student,” Gaseitsiwe said.
Apart from the 4x400m gold medal at the All Africa Games, Molefhe also won himself a gold medal in the 400m, a sign that Botswana did not win a gold medal in the relay by a fluke.

On the other hand, Gaseitsiwe, also sang praises for Amantle Montsho who won a gold medal in the ladies 400m. Gaseitsiwe said Montsho won mainly because the Botswana Athletics Association, in collaboration with the Botswana National Olympic Committee, invested a lot in the athlete and results are there for everyone to see.

Montsho became the first female athlete to represent Botswana at the 2004 Olympics. Although she did not do well, Gaseitsiwe said she learned a lot and is optimistic that in future she will continue to do the country proud.

The disappointment at the games was the fall of Glody Dube who failed to make it to the finals. Dube was the first Botswana athlete to taste the finals of the Olympics in 2000 in the USA. Since then his performance has been diminishing in bigger international competitions.

Meanwhile, another local athlete, Fanuel Kenosi, has earned himself a six year sponsorship from security company Group4Securicor (G4S). G4S will sponsor Kenosi to the tune of P70 000 a year to help him acquire high performance training around the world against experienced athletes. Some of the athletes he is expected to train with include much decorated Ethiopian, Haile Gebreselassie. G4S has, however, given assurance that the sponsorship money will be reviewed every year. Kenosi was chosen ahead of other athletes because he is considered to be a future prospect for the country and has a promising athletics record. G4S management said they would like to develop him to be a greater athlete in few years to come.


Read this week's paper