With the Africa Junior Championships set to begin tomorrow (Thursday) at the University of Botswana Stadium, the chairperson of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the Africa Junior Championships, Solly Reikeletseng, says it is all systems go for the country to host Africa’s best young talents.
The games, which will be officially opened by the Vice President, Lt General Mompati Merafhe, will run for four consecutive days and will be expected to be concluded on Thursday.
Speaking in an interview, Reikeletseng said despite facing many challenges in their endeavour to ensure successful hosting of the games, he is satisfied with the work done by his LOC.
“We have faced a number of challenges, mainly related to capacity, finances and facilities, but I believe we have overcome them,” the LOC chief said.
With the National Stadium still unavailable, Reikeletseng says they had to renovate the UB Stadium, which he believes is at the moment in a satisfactory position to host the games.
According to Reikeletseng, at least 30 of the 47 countries that had shown interest in competing to compete in the championships have already confirmed they will take part.
Meanwhile, the manager of Botswana team, Glody Dube, says they will be fielding a team of 58 young athletes to represent the country during the championships. The Botswana team manager says the country will field athletes in every event in the championships, save for pole vault where no representative has been identified.
While expressing the hope that the team will do well, Dube says it may as well prove difficult for the team to emulate the heroics of the 8 athletes’ team that went for the same championships in Mauritius in 2009 and came home with four medals. He says, unlike the team that went to Mauritius, this year’s team has not had enough preparations.
“We rely mostly on students and we, therefore, had only one training camp this year, which happened during the school vacations,” Dube said. Even then, the athletes were not together as a group as the athletes from the North of the country had their camp in Orapa while those in the south camped in Gaborone.
With most of the team members being student athletes, Dube says the ongoing refusal by teachers to take part in extracurricular activities means they (student athletes) have not had training.
By Monday, some of the student athletes had not yet joined the team due to school commitments, something which the team manager said was worrying.
Despite not having had enough preparations ahead of the games, Dube, who is also the Public Relations Officer (PRO) for the Botswana Athletics Association (BAA), was optimistic that with quality athletes they have in the team, they can still manage to get more medals than they did at the previous championships. He further added that to manage the large contingent of local athletes, nine coaches have been tasked with training the athletes. The Botswana team is currently residing at Lolwapa lodge but will soon relocate to the University of Botswana where all athletes will be housed during the championships.