At the 2003 All Africa games, Botswana’s 4×4 relay team surprised the continent by clinching a gold medal. The team beat powerful countries such as Nigeria, Ghana and those from North Africa. The historic performance even led to admiration from one wealthy Nigerian man who gave each athlete a sum of about P3 500.
A year later, the team also made a historic achievement by qualifying for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens Greece. Although they did not bring a medal, they managed to qualify for the finals.
At that time, the team had the likes of California Molefhe, Johnson Kubisa, Kagiso Kilego and Oganeditse Moseki. Currently, the duo of Kilego and Kubisa has called it quits, leaving a void that saw the team struggling in international competitions. Their places were taken by Gakologelwang Mashetu and Obakeng Ngwigwa, who are yet to make an impact. The notable dismal performance was last year at the World championships tournament in Helsinki, Finland, where they bowed out in the early stages. With the 2007 All Africa games looming, there are concerns that the relay team might find the going tough.
There are two new athletes who have been called to beef up the team and it remains to be seen whether they can be effective. The duo of Tshepho Makhala and Isaac Kelaotswe has, however, been impressive in local competitions.
The technical officer of the Botswana Athletics Association (BAA), Bobby Gaseitsiwe, is unfazed and believes the team will do better at the Algiers games that start in July than they did in Nigeria. He told Sunday Standard Sports that the team had a tight schedule and most athletes would be in good shape when the games get underway.
“We still have five months before the All Africa games, and the team is training hard. We also have a very busy schedule before the games and obviously most athletes would be in good condition. We will not only be holding competitions at home but will also be participating internationally in countries such as Kenya, Malawi and Mozambique,” he said.
Gaseitsewe said before their achievement in Nigeria, less was known about the team and yet they performed well. That, he said, is also the case with the current team. Gaseitsewe added that since both Mashetu and Ngwigwa are studying overseas, it is an added advantage. He said they were getting invaluable experience because they are using state of the art facilities. He revealed that there are a lot of promising youngsters who are going to take many people by surprise.
Gaseitsiwe, however, expressed concern about short distance races.
He said there hasn’t been an outstanding athlete in the 100 and 200m categories, except Tlhalosang Molapisi. Gaseitsiwe said the selected athletes might struggle at the games.
The Public Relations officer of BAA, Ipolokeng Ramatshaba, echoed Gaseitsiwe’s words and said Botswana athletes were on their way to causing major upsets at the All Africa games. His main worry was, however, the weather conditions in Algeria. He said BAA needed to be strategic before the games noting that Algeria is a hot country most of the time, and that would still be the case in July while it will be cold in Botswana.
“We did well at the 2003 games and that was around September, and it was the time when it was hot in both Botswana and Nigeria. Our athletes did not struggle as they adapted to Nigerian conditions quickly. In regard to Algeria it is a different case. We must at least camp in a country with similar Algerian conditions for at least a month before the games or else our athletes might have problems,” Ramatshaba said.
Ramatshaba also added that the team will be finalised at least a month before the games. He said certain things will be taken into consideration before finalising the team. He cited injuries and loss in form as some of the reasons that might force them to drop certain athletes.
In the field events, Botswana looks set to be in pole position, especially in both the long and high jump categories. Two-time Commonwealth silver medalist, Gable Garenamotse, is also part of the team. He is expected to carry on where he left off in last year’s Commonwealth games. Other good high jumpers, such as Kabelo Kgosiemang and Kabelo Mmono, are also part of the team.
Other runners in camp include the likes of controversial Tshotlego Morama. Before the camp, Morama had not been seen in the track for close to a year.
Other known faces in the team are Sydney 2000 Olympic finalist, Glody Dube, Kabo Gabaseme, Tiyapo Maso, Gabalebe Moloko, James John and Onneile Dintwe.