When the BNOC envisioned six medals for Botswana by 2016 a couple of years ago before the London 2012 Olympics, many would have believed the target was achievable.
At the time, Botswana’s Amantle Montsho seemed more likely to win a medal for Botswana at the Olympics and youngsters like men’s 800 meters track star Nijel Amos as well as boxer Oteng Oteng were on the rise.
Then came the London 2012 Olympics, and Montsho failed to nail her medal and Botswana eventually won only one medal, thanks to Amos’ heroics.
While Amos’ track career has since been on the rise, things have not gone accordingly for others. Ever since then, Montsho’s future has gone off the tracks, with the local star athlete now facing an uncertain future after failing a routine drug test while the likes of Oteng have had an indifferent rise in his career.
As Botswana’s preparations for the Rio 2016 Olympics start taking root, the BNOC is now facing what seems an insurmountable task of winning at least five medals to meet its target.
As a means to step up preparations for the Rio 2016 and perhaps a measure to try and meet the target, the BNOC recently unveiled sponsorships for five athletes from the Olympic Solidarity.
The five athletes, namely, Amos, Isaac Makwala, Pako Seribe, Kabelo Kgosiemang as well as swimmer Naomi Ruele were the only athletes picked from the 15 submitted by the BNOC as deserving of a full scholarship by the Olympic Solidarity.
Of these, the only athletes that will be under pressure to perform will be the quartet from track and field events. It will however be a different matter altogether for Ruele, who is still considered a developmental athlete.
Commenting on the issue, the Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Tuelo Serufho said the committee and its affiliates will have to sit down and revise whether the target of six Olympic medals by the year 2016 is still feasible.
Speaking in an interview, the BNOC CEO said while the committee still aspires to reach the target, it will not make rash decisions like sending a large contingent to the games hoping for more medals.
“We will still adopt the same criteria we used for the London 2012 Games and send only athletes who meet the qualifying standards of the games. We have always said we will value quality over quantity and this is what we will continue doing,” the BNOC CEO said.
Serufho said the number of athletes going to the Rio 2016 will solely depend on the number of athletes meeting the qualifying standards, adding that even if they get a large number of athletes who qualify, they will be in the team.
To ensure that a good number of local athletes qualify, the BNOC CEO said the committee has been busy helping to solicit sponsorships for athletes showing capability of qualifying.
“Aside from the above mentioned five athletes who have won themselves fully paid scholarships from the Olympic Solidarity, we also continue to solicit sponsors for our other athletes who could not get the Olympic Solidarity scholarships. Some of them have now received help from the continental grant and we still trying to find ways to help others who cannot get these scholarships,” Serufho explained.
According to the BNOC CEO, among athletes benefitting from the continental grants are emerging track stars Baboloki Thebe and Karabo Sibanda. The two athletes have represented the country at both the Africa Youth Games as well the Nanjing Youth Olympics and are seen as the future of Botswana athletics.
He said where possible, the BNOC, together with affiliates like the Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) are trying to find ways in which athletes not on grants can still get necessary training to push them to do better and have a chance of qualifying. “We and the BAA are currently trying to find ways in which we can try to extend the coaching services offered to some of our athletes on sponsorships to cover athletes who are not on scholarships. Where coaches are found for athletes on scholarships, we want to avail funds for them (the coaches) to also include other athletes not on scholarships,” the BNOC CEO explained.
He said the plan is to find a qualified coach to help train local athletes on permanent basis.