Botswana Boxing national team coach, Khumiso Ikgopoleng, says he is optimistic that his charges can make the Olympic team, should finances be available to help them prepare. The mentor, whose preliminary team of seven boxers is expected to go into camp tomorrow (Monday), says while time is running out and the team is behind other national teams in preparations, there is still time for the team to make it to the London 2012 Olympics.
For the team to make it to the London showpiece, it will have to make it past the Africa Olympic qualifiers, due to be held in Morocco in April.
“We have already submitted our budget to the Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC), who are the sponsors, and they have shown pleasure in it and promised to help,” Ikgopoleng said.
Should the funds be available soon, the national team mentor says a preparations’ calendar has already been drafted and wheels will be set in motion to give the team the much needed preparations.
“If we do get the funds we want, we intend to have at least two friendly matches with Namibia and South Africa. Apart from these friendly matches, we also want to compete at one of International Boxing Association (AIBA) sanctioned competitions in March before going to Germany and Cuba for training camps,” Ikgopoleng added.
While optimistic of the team’s chances to make it past the Africa qualifiers to the Olympics, Ikgopoleng is, however, not averse to the fact that the actual task of qualifying is a very tough undertaking for his charges.
“At the moment, no Africans have already qualified for the London Olympics and that means the Africa qualifiers will be very tough,” the former Olympian said in an interview.
While not overly worried about fellow African national teams, Ikgopoleng says the fiercest competition will be from the North African countries; more especially the Arab speaking countries who he says have been busy preparing.
“What we have heard is that from the World Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan, last year, these countries’ teams have been in camp and have been preparing for the Africa qualifiers. As for us, we have been on a very prolonged break and this has set back our preparations. As this will be our first camp and boxers have been inactive, we will be literally starting from scratch,” the Boxing national team mentor said.
Ikgopoleng says had finances not been a hindrance, he would have liked his charges not to have had a prolonged break after the Baku World Championships and the All Africa Games, but to have had a continuous training camp.
Meanwhile, Ikgopoleng says due to financial constraints, he expects only four out of the seven boxers in camp to be selected for the qualifiers as well as the Olympics as per the request of BNOC, who are the Botswana team sponsors.
“This will be a very difficult task as all the boxers called for the national team are very talented and can compete. That being the case, should Botswana Boxing Association get funds, we intend to send more boxers to boost our chances of qualifying,” he said.
The seven boxers called into camp are Oteng Oteng (52 kg), Mooketsi Lekgetho and Bathusi Mogajane (42 kg), Mmoloki Nogeng and Ofentse Kompone (60 kg), Thato Batshegi (56 kg) and Gomotsang Gaasite in the 64 kg category.