The Botswana Hayashi-Ha Karate Federation has sent a team of seven to the annual US Open karate tournament, slated for Las Vegas, USA during the Easter holidays. The tournament is an official Hayashi-Ha event in accordance with the calendar submitted to Botswana Karate Association (BOKA).
The team departed on March 16th, comprising of Ofentse Shakes Bakwadi (senior elite Kata and Kumite),Tshepo Baumake (under 21 category), Mohammed Ali (under 15 years),Motheo Moipolai and Ammed Ali Hussein(both 11 years) headed by Fatima Khan as head of delegation and Shi-han Mpho Bakwadi- who is the official World Karate Federation (WKF) Referee.
Local karate ace Ofentse Bakwadi, who scooped a bronze medal in Kata at the All Africa Games in Congo Brazzaville last year, is expected to perform well against the best in the world at the tournament. The 2011 BNSC Sportsman of the Year had to sponsor himself to the tournament as BOKA was unable to pay for his travel because of financial constrains.
“I just had to sponsor myself. This tournament will enable me to face off with the best in the world and gauge my performance ahead of major continental and international events,” he said.
Bakwadi recently scooped three straight gold medals in Kata at the local senior national team selection tournaments, meant to select the squad that will represent the country at the forthcoming Zone VI Championships and Africa Senior Cup, billed for Zimbabwe and Gabon in May and August respectively. Bakwadi revealed that this will be his fourth US Open tournament; adding that he hopes to perform much better this time around because he has not been able to win a medal so far.
“The best I did was 5th place in the under 60kg Kata and Kumite, losing to Douglas Brose of Brazil in the bronze medal bout in 2014. He is the current under 60kg World Karate Federation (WKF) world champion. But this time I have set my eyes on scooping a medal,” he said.
He further said the level of competition in the elite category is too high as compared to the junior categories.
“It’s important to compete against the best in the world. That’s why we bring along our juniors to these competitions; so they can acclimatize and get used to competing at the highest level,” said Bakwadi.
Mohammed Ali and Ammed Ali Hussain also competed in the last US Open. Though they came back empty handed, they put up an impressive performance for the national team in continental events, which is a sign of growth. The spotlight will also be on 18 year old Tshepo Baumake who will be competing for the first time in this tournament after scooping a gold medal at the 2nd Africa Youth Games. The team is expected back home on March 30th.
Meanwhile, young karate maestro Khaya Groth will be back in the country on academic break from the United Kingdom, where he is enrolled at Reading University courtesy of the BNSC elite scholarship.