Monday, January 18, 2021

Classification incompatibility scamper local Paralympians Olympic hopes

Incompatibility in athletes’ classification together with lack of enough qualifying games has almost dashed out the hopes of some local Paralympians in representing the country at the upcoming London Paralympics Games.

After the dismal performance of local paralympians as well as the disqualification of some due to declassification at the 6th International Athletics Meeting of Tunis (SIAMT), Tunisia qualifiers, the local paralympians are now holding on to the hope that they may get a chance to go to other qualifying games in Mexico or, at least, send two upcoming athletes as wild cards.

Speaking in an interview, the Paralympics Association of Botswana (PASSOBO) president, Thuso Rasetapa, said the differences in classification systems between his association and the International Paralympics Committee (IPC) robbed some local athletes of a chance to qualify for the London Paralympics Games.

“In Botswana, we have been using local doctors at the Princess Marina Hospital to classify our athletes. Unfortunately, these doctors are not IPC sanctioned and thus their classification was not compatible with those set by the IPC,” Rasetapa explained.

According to the PASSOBO President, this now calls for the association to find a way of classifying their athletes before they can compete, something which he believes will be expensive.

“Right now, there is only one doctor who is IPC sanctioned in Southern Africa and he is based in South Africa. This means if we want to classify our athletes, of which there are many, we will have to go to South Africa and we will be expected to pay for the services per athlete. This is a very costly process which by its own expensiveness won’t qualify us to do as such,” Rasetapa said.

The PASSOBO chief says another major factor, which contributed to local athletes not qualifying for the London games is lack of many qualifying games in the African region, more especially in the Southern African region. “Unlike in other sports where there are many opportunities for athletes to qualify, the Paralympics sports do not have such opportunities. In the Southern African region, we do not even have a single event that is sanctioned by the IPC as a Paralympics qualifier,” the PASSOBO President said.

He added that as such, it becomes expensive for his association to send athletes to qualifying games.

“Most of the London Paralympics qualifiers are held outside of Africa and this makes it difficult for us to take our athletes there as it is very expensive,” Rasetapa said.

Meanwhile, the PASSOBO chief says they will be engaging the Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) in the near future to discuss what transpired at the SIAMT qualifiers and to map a way forward.

On other issues related to Paralympics sports, PASSOBO will be holding its Annual General Meeting (AGM) this coming Friday at the Maharaj Conference Centre.

According to Rasetapa, the AGM will also give the association, its affiliates as well as the stakeholders a chance to discuss the latest classification standards as well as to map a way forward for the upcoming games.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper