Saturday, September 25, 2021

National karate team off to world championships

The Botswana Karate Association (BOKA) will send a team of six Karatekas to represent the country at the upcoming World Karate Federation (WKF) Championships.

The championships, which are billed for Belgrade, Serbia, kick off this coming Wednesday and are expected to end on Sunday.

The team comprises of five male athletes and a single lady. They leave tomorrow (Monday) and are expected back in the country early next week. Speaking to Standard Sport after the presentation of the team to the media, the team’s coach, Sensei Mpho Bakwadi, said he is hopeful the team will get a medal at the championships.

He says the team’s performance in the recent past competitions, more especially at the Zone 6 in Zimbabwe and at the Africa Championships in Cape Town this past August, gives hope that the team will do well in Serbia. Bakwadi, however, said there will be no pressure on the team to get medals, considering the magnitude of the championships and the caliber of the opponents they will be fighting against.

“World championships are very tough compared to the tournaments we have been attending. Some of the opponents these athletes will come up against at the championships are professional athletes,” Bakwadi told Standard Sport.

The team mentor quickly added that despite the pedigree of their opponents, local karatekas have the capability to pull off major upsets in the tournament.

Having won the world championship in his career, the national team mentor says all the local karatekas need to have is the belief that they can make it. He says preparations for the championships have gone well, adding that for the past month, the athletes have trained at least three times a day.

The team is expected in Serbia on Tuesday evening, and is expected to start competing on Wednesday, something which will be a worry to the coach as the athletes will have no time to fully rest and acclimatize to the European conditions before the games kick off.

The athletes representing Botswana at the championships will be coach Bakwadi’s younger brother, Ofentse, Kaene Kago, Oratile Caiphus, Kabelo Molefe and Tebogo Molapo while Thato Malunga will be the only ladies’ representative in the team.

Save for Ofentse and Caiphus, all the other athletes will be making their debut on karate’s grandest stage of all, the world championships. Commenting on the team’s chances of bringing medals from the championships, the younger Bakwadi echoed his coach’s sentiments that the locals will go into the tournament as underdogs.

“We will go into the championships as underdogs and an unknown package. This may work well for us and enable us to cause upsets,” Ofentse told Standard Sport. He is, however, conscious of the pressure he is under to emulate his older brother and coach, more especially as he is the most experienced of the team and is no foreigner on the karate world stage.

The younger Bakwadi has already been to the US open championships in America and, recently, the World University Karate Championships as well as the Zone 6 and Africa championships and his performance has been good. The young karateka says he expects the team to rise to the occasion, adding that they will try not to be overawed by the occasion.

The team will be accompanied by BOKA president, Sensei Gift Nkwe, as Head of Delegation, Kemmonye Seletamotse as Team Manager and Steady Basupeng, who will be a referee at the championships.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper