Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Educated sportspersons: the success stories

Being an international sports figure is a daunting task and needs maximum discipline, on and off the field.

On the other hand, education is also a most invaluable life-long survival skill that requires unparalleled commitment and dedication. Combining sports and academics is the most daunting task which many people failed to achieve.

Others who tried to combine both ended up losing both while others just decided to concentrate on either one.

In a country like Botswana, where sports is regarded by many parents as useless, many promising sports personalities end up just concentrating on their books.

However, there are those locals who combined their academics and sports and achieved in both.

In boxing, there are the likes of Lesly Sekotswe, Gilbert Khunwane, Khumiso Ikgopoleng and Lechedzani ‘Master’ Luza.

Sekotswe is a secondary school teacher by profession but achieved a lot in international competitions while he was still a student.

The same goes for Khunwane, who is an engineer by profession and works for Botswana Television. During his University days, Khunwane managed to juggle the two and excelled.
Ikgopoleng, on the other hand, just made history for Botswana at the Olympic Games. Although he did not bring a medal home, he managed to reach the last eight of the world’s most significant event. Even when he was still studying in Cuba, he was Botswana’s most respected boxer in international competitions and raked in medals.

Luza also won many of his international medals while still a student at the University of Botswana where he studying sciences. His course of study was just as demanding as his boxing career. He defied the odds by winning three of the most competitive boxing tournaments around the world.

In 2002, Luza won Botswana’s first ever silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester. It should be borne in mind that before Luza left for the game, he was under tremendous pressure.
He was seen as young and inexperienced and the technical team chose him ahead of then all time favourite, Elliot Mmila.

But Luza fought like a wounded lion, pummeling some of the great boxers around the world.

Also in 2003 and 2005, Luza continued to excel in international competitions, the most notable being the Commonwealth championships where he won gold medals in fierce competitions.

Luza, however, told Sunday Standard that it is not easy at all to excel in both aspects and it requires extra-ordinary discipline.

“It is not easy at all and one does not have a social life. Anyway, that’s a price one is prepared to pay once he is determined to do something. I remember when I was still at the University the hectic schedule I had, fortunately most of my lecturers were more understanding that I was representing the country. Also, when I was on trips, I made it a point that I was always carrying my books so that I did not fall behind in my studies. When I was busy with my studies, I made it a point that everyday before going to bed I had to do some training,” he said. Other athletes who made it in the academic world despite their demanding sport activities are the likes of Gable Garenamotse, Phadzha Butale, Peaceful Seleka and Shadarek Kapeko.

Garenamotse is a two time Commonwealth Games silver medalist. Butale also made it in football despite his demanding law career. He won several league and Coca-Cola championships with Notwane. He made it into the national team after playing for almost all youth teams in the country.

Highlights of Butale’s soccer career include the 2004 COSAFA Castle Cup against Angola in Luanda. Botswana lost the game on penalties after a stalemate and Butale went on to be voted Man of the Match. He was voted ahead of seasoned and experienced Angolan players like Love, Flavio and Manucho, who currently plays for Manchester United. Kapeko and Seleka also helped Botswana’s men volleyball team to achieve several accolades including the Zone VI Championships in 2005.

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.