Saturday, July 4, 2020

Olympic preparations back on track as MYSC steps in

At the Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) Annual General Assembly (AGA), one organisation’s absence was conspicuous, that of the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC).

While no reason was advanced, the absence of the BNSC representation at the BNOC AGA could not just go unnoticed, at least not when it comes in the backdrop of the two organisation’s acrimony over the Tokyo 2020 Olympic preparations.

But if the BNSC’s no show was a sideshow, the main attraction, the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development (MYSC), represented by Assistant Minister Buti Honest Billy and his team from the MYSC lived to expectations.

Gracing the BNOC for the first time since his appointment, and fully aware of the shenanigans surrounding Botswana’s preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the assistant minister delivered the news affiliates and Batswana in general had long wanted to hear.

Finally, MYSC would be availing finances to the BNOC to facilitate the country’s preparations for the Olympics, and the ministry would commit to help.

“Our ministry will do everything in its powers to ensure that we will have a successful mission in Tokyo,” Billy committed.

The announcement was however an understatement of how much MYSC, under its new leadership, had done over the past few days to get Botswana’s Olympic dreams back in track.

From the debacle of the BNSC not releasing the Olympic preparation monies to the BNOC, who are the rightful custodians of the games, MYSC had finally managed to put the latter in charge.

As per the assistant minister’s undertaking, MYSC ‘was ready to work with BNOC to achieve better results for the country.’

According to the BNOC, MYSC, along with the BNSC, was working on an initiative or programme ‘to assist athletes who have qualified for the Olympics, as well as those who are yet to qualify but are medal prospects, to prepare well for Tokyo 2020 Olympics.’

“Our medal prospects depend on competitions to earn a living and we have realised that if they focus on these competitive events, it will disrupt their preparations,” BNOC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Tuelo Serufho explained.

“Working with MYSC, we are working on a programme to take care of all our medal prospects’ needs to ensure their sole focus is on preparing for the Olympics and bringing home medals,” he highlighted.

He said the plan will be that once athletes qualify, they will be given incentives for them not to participate in events ‘just to make a living.’

The practice is in line with that in top sporting countries, where athletes’ needs are taken care to ensure they only focus on winning their countries medals at major competitions.

The BNOC said for this plan to succeed, both MYSC and BNOC will be seeking partnerships from private sector.

“Our hope is that the private sector will come on board and sponsor, whether in monetary form or in kind to help MYSC and BNOC to facilitate better preparations for our athletes,” said Serufho.

With as many of the country’s best athletes currently sidelined due to injuries, the BNOC CEO said MYSC, BNSC and other stakeholders are also working together to provide sports science assistance.

“The intention is that starting this month, we will have medical doctors, physiotherapists, masseurs, nutritionists and psychologists availed to our athletes. The plan is that these should be availed until the Olympics.”

Serufho said as local athletes are susceptible to injury, once all these are in place, athletes will be subjected to regular tests to ensure that their preparations are tailor made to suit their physical needs.

“We want a situation where, for example, if the athlete is injured and a month rest is recommended by a medical practitioner, we can ensure that such a recommendation is followed,” explained the BNOC CEO.

Of interest, MYSC is said to have already committed to engage fulltime coaches to work with athletes on a regular basis.

Under the arrangement, coaches will then be able ‘to commit to the teams and athletes fulltime without other commitments.’

Meanwhile, MYSC has given the BNOC a go ahead to revise Olympic preparation and qualifying programmes for sporting codes. Already, BNOC is said to have met with various sporting codes to work with them to revise preparations.

“Our engagements with the national federations are ongoing to hear from them as to who among them have a realistic chance of qualifying. We will then work with them to refine their preparations to make sure they are streamlined to meet our Olympic targets,” Serufho explained.

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Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.