Batswana’s eyes will be glued to the silver screens this weekend to watch the country’s elite athletes compete in the National Championships all the more eager to qualify for the 2020/1 Tokyo Olympics.
The two-day event, which is a ranking event in the Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) calendar, will be hosted at the National Stadium on the 15th and 16th of May.
Due to the ongoing fight against the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, no major upsets are expected as only elite athletes have been invited for the event.
On the bright side however, there is expectation that the competition will be more robust as athletes will be seeking to book a place at either the Olympics or the Africa Senior Championships.
The latter event, which is also expected to help continental athletes to qualify for the Olympics is billed for Algeria next month (June).
“These championships will give our athletes, more especially members of our 400m men’s relay a chance to qualify for individual events at the Olympics,” BAA vice president technical Oabona Theetso explains.
With all members of the men’s 4X400m relay team yet to qualify for the individual events, the BAA vice president technical says fireworks should be expected.
“The likes of Leungo Scotch, Ditiro Nzamani and Boitumelo Masilo are looking to take this opportunity to book themselves a ticket to the Olympics, so we expect the competition to be tough,” he explained.
“All of these athletes, and Masilo in particular can qualify. At the world relays, he registered the best splits for Botswana athletes in both the heats and the finals and this will have given him a massive boost,” Theetso explains.
Joining the fray for the ticket to the Olympics will be 19-year-old emerging 400m athlete Anthony Pasela.
“Pasela has already qualified for the world junior championships for later this year and he will be looking to make the Olympics. This is one athlete to look out for,” says Theetso.
Elsewhere, Theetso says he expects to see the best of the athletes from the national team’s 4X100m relay.
“There has been a lot of doubts around them and I believe they will be going all out to prove to doubting Thomases that they deserve to be where they are,” he says.
For his part, athletics analyst Billy Tambula says all eyes will be on veteran track star Isaac Makwala as he seeks to qualify in the men’s 200m individual events.
“Makwala will be seeking to close this off before he qualifies in the 400m event. If he manages to qualify in the 200m event, then qualifying for the 400m will be easy,” he opines.
Like Theetso, Tambula says spectators should expect to see a tight qualifier in the men’s 400m events as members of the relay team will be seeking to guarantee themselves tickets to Tokyo.
“At the moment, it is an open season in this event as no athlete has booked a place there. Every athlete will be aware that clocking a qualifying time puts him in a good position to be on the plane to Tokyo,” he says.
He however says this will not be the case in the women’s 400m event where the three slots for Botswana have already been filled by Amantle Montsho, Christine Botlogetswe and Galefhele Moroko.
“These three athletes have an opportunity to improve their times further and are likely to be invited to major competitions like the Diamond League,” he says.
He however says he is hopeful that the country’s 100m track starlet Leungo Matlhaku will take the weekend’s event to qualify for the Olympics.
“Before she got injured, she was very close to qualifying. I believe that had she managed to get consecutive events, she would have made the cut,” says Tambula.
Without unknown athletes at the event, Tambula says he does not expect any surprises as all the invited athletes are known and capable.
The national championships will start at 9am on Saturday morning and are expected to be beamed on Botswana Television.