Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Sibanda Olympic qualification adds to coach’s selection headache

Botswana athletics team coach, Justice Dipeba has a pleasant problem: Choosing his 400X400m men’s relay team may prove more troublesome than he anticipated because he is spoilt for choice ÔÇô not usually an issue for Botswana.

Dipeba’s depth of options follows the emergence of a number of Olympic grade athletes. In what may be Botswana’s best Olympic qualifiers to date, men’s 400m teenage runner, Karabo Sibanda has added his name to the growing list of Botswana’s 400m Olympic bound athletes. In what was an epic showing during last weekend’s Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) National Championships, Sibanda, clocked an impressive 45.40 seconds to book a place to the Rio Olympics. The teenager’s qualification now means he joins the likes of Isaac Makwala, Onkabetse Nkobolo as well as another teenage sensation, Baboloki Thebe in the list of local men’s 400m athletes who have outright qualified for the Olympics. Sibanda’s qualification also means he is eligible to be considered for the country’s 400X400m relay, which, aside from Makwala, Thebe and Nkobolo, already boasts of the likes of Nijel Amos, Leaname Maotoanong and Zachariah Kamberuka among others. “It is exciting to have a pool of athletes like that and it is very exciting more especially when it comes to the relays. When it comes to the individual events, they will sort themselves out. It will depend on who is performing, who is ready and who is at the top,” Dipeba explained.

Speaking in an interview after watching the likes of Sibanda force themselves into the relay picture, an excited Dipeba said the number of athletes vying for the relay team will give him exciting selection options. “Having athletes like these will give me the opportunity to rest some other athletes who will be doing individual events knowing that I still have athletes who can run basically the same times as the other guys doping individual events,” the Olympics’ team coach said. He was however adamant that his selection policies at the Olympics will depend on the schedule of both the 400m individual and 400X400m relay races. “I know that going to Rio we have a pretty nice break between the 400m individual and the relays, so you might not even see me resting the top guys because a lot will be at stake. We have to make the finals because if you don’t make the finals, you will be out of contention. So, we might not even risk it from the beginning and just throw our top guns right from the start and make sure we qualify for the finals,” Dipeba concluded.

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