The Botswana Hayashi Ha Karate Chief instructor, Sensei Mpho Bakwadi, has expressed happiness with the growth of the Gaborone Open Karate Championships. In what was a first for the annual tournament, which was hosted at the Al Nur English Medium this past Saturday, the tournament attracted among others, four Karatekas from Hong Kong.
Speaking in an interview, Sensei Bakwadi said the arrival of the Asian contingent on the shores of the country to compete in the tournament, proves that the organisers are committed to elevating the tournament into an international standard event. “Our vision from the onset was to grow the Gaborone Open Karate Championships into an international tournament in par with the best in the world. Over the years, we have made strides to achieve this vision and we are happy that our vision is becoming a reality,” Sensei Bakwadi explained. He said the arrival of the four competitors from Asia, namely Chris Tsz Men Chen, Lee Ka Wai, Lee Chun Ho and Tsang Yee Ting, went a long way in pushing the annual Gaborone Open Karate Championship into the desired International standard competition.
“These four are professional Karatekas. Their presence in the competition helped improve the quality of performances in the tournament and they competing in the tournament helped expose us as to where we need to improve if we are to compete with the best in the world,” Bakwadi said. While the Asians nearly dominated all the senior elite categories in the championships, winning two gold and two silver medals each, Bakwadi said he was impressed with the overall performance of local athletes. At the weekend’s championships, Botswana managed to come first, having won 122 medals, among them 35 gold, 31 silver and 56 bronze medals. South Africa were second with 102 medals, of which 22 were gold, 36 silver and 44 bronze while Hong Kong’s two golds and two silvers earned them a third position.
Some local Karatekas who impressed the most at the tournament include the likes of Leonard Modise, Phillip Revaka, Tshepo Baumake as well as Thabang Setshego. The latter’s performances were even more impressive as he won a Kumite gold medal against Lee Chun Ho in the Male Under 67KG Elite Kumite. “He (Setshego) is a hugely talented young athlete who we have to carefully look after. Despite his win, we will not rush him into the seniors but will let him grow in his age categories,” Sensei Bakwadi said. In the ladies’ categories, Tsholofelo Maduma was a standout performer, having beat Tsang Yee Ting to win gold in the Ladies Elite Kumite. Overall, Bakwadi said the local athletes have shown tremendous improvement over the years. He said with more international exposure, local athletes are now growing into themselves as their attitudes have changed.
Meanwhile, Sensei Bakwadi said the organisers will be going an extra mile next year to maintain the upward trajectory of the tournament.
Apart from trying to bring back the four competitors from Hong Kong, Bakwadi said they will also continue to invite other international competitors to grace the next competition. This year’s Gaborone Open was sponsored by Western Union Botswana.