The Steinmetz Gaborone Marathon has now been named as an Olympic qualifier.
The event, which will be held on April 22, will now be used as a qualifier for the London 2012 Olympics.
Speaking in an interview, one of the race’s organisers, Stellan Bengtsson, said the naming of the event as an Olympic qualifier will boost the marathon’s growth and reputation of the event while also helping local athletes to qualify.
“This means the marathon will be one of the few Olympic qualifying events left in Southern Africa and this is bound to make it an attraction factor to international athletes. It will also be of major interest to local athletes who seek to make the team to London 2012,” Bengtsson said.
According to Bengtsson, the race gives local athletes a rare opportunity to qualify for the Olympics in their own backyard.
On how they managed to get the race to be named as an Olympic qualifier, Bengtsson said the fact that they are working very closely with the Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) and the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) as well as the fact that they are accredited by the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS) played a major role. He says at the moment, they are working very hard to ensure that the event meets and resembles international standards.
“We have already engaged the Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) and they will be partnering us this year. They will be providing us with anti doping officials to ensure that the event is kept clean by ensuring athletes taking part are tested for performance enhancing drugs,” he added.
Apart from the BNOC and the BAA, Bengtsson says they are also working very closely with the Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC) who are the sport’s governing body in Botswana.
For their part, the BAA says it is excited by IAAF’s decision to approve the Steinmetz Gaborone Marathon as an Olympic qualifier. Speaking in an interview, BAA’s Public Relations Officer, Ipolokeng Ramatshaba said the decision is a ‘milestone’ for local athletics.
“This decision means a lot to us, it also means a lot to our local athletes. This marathon is an open event and it means all our local athletes can try their luck and qualify for the London 2012 Olympics,” Ramatshaba said. He says with money to take athletes outside the country for qualifying very limited, the event will offer many local athletes an opportunity to book their tickets to the London 2012 Olympics.
According to the BAA PRO, the marathon, which takes place only two months before the beginning of the Olympics, will also give local athletes much needed preparation for the London event.
“We intend to have at least one marathon athlete on the Olympic team and this marathon gives us the opportunity to do as such,” Ramatshaba added.
The BAA spokesperson says what is even more interesting, is the fact that there are no set qualifying standards for the marathon, meaning that local athletes can come in large numbers. With the country not having as many big qualifying events for marathon runners, it is expected that local Olympic hopefuls like Bashingili Ndabile, Raobina Ramoseka and others will use the race to qualify for the London showpiece.