Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Rush to Tokyo Olympics gets BAA adrenaline going

With only a few months to go before the Tokyo 2020/21 Olympics start, Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) finds itself in for an Olympic qualification and preparation race like no other before.

Time is quickly ticking towards the summer Olympics and the Coronavirus is rapidly spreading across the country, hampering the association’s preparations.

BAA, unlike any other sporting code in Botswana, shoulders most of the burden of the country’s medal hopes at the upcoming Olympics

However, with the upsurge in Coronavirus cases and the start stop sports season, BAA’s quest is becoming even more complicated.

In a week when the association announced it will be staging its first competition of the year, one of its affiliates, Ramotswa Athletics Club reported one of its athletes has been diagnosed with coronavirus.

As a result, some of the team’s athletes and officials, who had come into contact with the athlete were sent into isolation, missing the weekend’s event in the process.

“When athletes return negative COVID-19 results, it means such athletes won’t be able to attend the race and so are their contacts,” BAA Vice-President technical Oabona Theetso says.

For BAA, which is yet to qualify most of its star athletes for what is the world’s biggest sporting show-piece, the news is not exactly what they would have wanted.

With the association already having divided the country into two zones, the South and North, the absence of athletes due to COVID-19 further affects the number of athletes competing in their events. “Obviously this might affect the quality of our races,” Theetso says. 

Now, the association has to come up with more regulations and solutions to safeguard the health of its prized assets, being the athletes and officials.

“Obviously, COVID-19 comes with a big budget as we have to buy necessities such as thermometers, sanitizers and others,” the BAA vice president technical explains.

According to Theetso, because of these unexpected necessities, BAA might find itself ‘having to ask for surplus funding from both the Botswana National Olympics Committee (BNOC) and Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC). 

The BAA vice president says at the moment, they have their national team athletes in camp and they are pinning their hopes on local races to help them qualify for the Olympics.

BAA has already qualified four athletes, three ladies and one man for the Tokyo Olympics but are looking to add more to the number. 

The qualified athletes are women 400m athletes Amantle Montsho, Christine Botlogetswe, Galefele Moroko and men’s 800m star Nijel Amos.

“Our target is to qualify 18 athletes including two relay teams for the Olympics,” Theetso says when asked about their target number for qualifying athletes.

As a precautionary measure to protect the athletes, he says ‘before athletes convened for camp, they undertook COVID-19 test.’

“The plan is that there will be screening at games. Moreover there won’t be spectators to help reduce numbers,” he concludes.

The summer Olympics are scheduled to take place from Friday 23 July to Sunday8 August in Tokyo, Japan.

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