Saturday, July 31, 2021

Is there any hope for Botswana at the Tokyo Olympics?

‘It is not over until the fat lady sings.’ This popular saying proved apt ahead of the closing of Olympic qualifiers yesterday as some local athletes still pushed for a ticket to Tokyo.

One such was the talented 400m track athlete Baboloki Thebe, who, by Tuesday, was competing in Spain in a last-ditch attempt to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

For all other athletes however, all hopes for qualifying had faded long before the proverbial fat lady started singing on the 29th of June 2021.

With only 23 days left to the long-awaited summer Olympics, even the Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) is resigned to sending a team likely shorn off its crème de la crème to the Olympics.

BAA had hoped to send at least 15 or more athletes to represent the country in a bid to help Botswana achieve her medal target at the Tokyo Olympics.

Among the expected was the talented duo of Thebe and Karabo Sibanda who have for a long-time formed part of the country’s formidable 4X400m relay team.

While Thebe was still attempting to qualify a day before closing of qualifiers this past Monday, him and Sibanda were not part of the nine track athletes who had already qualified. 

According to Oabona Theetso, Vice President of BAA, they are definitely not pleased with the number they have qualified.

“We could have registered more numbers but we could not because of covid-19 protocols, lockdowns, movement restrictions and suspension of BAA activities. And we are not pleased with the number we are sending,” he explained.

Theetso said despite pushing very hard over the past two weeks to qualify more athletes, their efforts seem to have failed to bear fruit.

He however said he is still optimistic that despite not qualifying the number of athletes they had hoped for, they can still bring home a medal.

“Everyone who has qualified is a medal prospect and they will surely make us proud one way or the other,” Theetso said.

Commenting on the matter, journalist and athletics’ analyst Anastasia Sibanda said the number of athletes who have qualified is not pleasing, adding that more athletes could have qualified. 

“The strategy plan from Botswana National Olympics Committee (BNOC) was to qualify more athletes because we come from far preparing our athletes to qualify,” she observed.

“Unfortunately, things did not go as planned, and the suspension of BAA really came as a cost to athletes and drew them back,” Sibanda explained.

She highlighted that most of our athletes participate in meets in Europe which they use to qualify. But due to Covid-19 it was really a struggle to host and even participate because of travel bans.

“I am sorry but I am not going to say I anticipate any medals. If we do finish at the podium, we will surely celebrate because it is our dream to be see our athletes there. We can only wish them all the best of luck because the competition is too tight,” Sibanda concluded.

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