Stakes will be high this coming Saturday when a number of elite local and international athletes brace the winter chill to take part in the annual Mascom Phikwe marathon.
Save for its attractive winner’s pay cheque of P25┬á000, the event, which will be celebrating its 26th year of existence, has been listed by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) as one of the qualifying events for the London 2012 Olympics. According to the Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) Technical Officer Bobby Gaseitsiwe, local athletes who will clock a minimum time of 2 hours and 18 minutes for the race will be considered for a place in the Olympics.
“Our mandate and objective as the BAA is to develop and encourage our athletes. As such, athletes who will come closer to qualifying will be given another opportunity to qualify,” Gaseitsiwe said.
The BAA technical officer says with the Phikwe event being a national marathon, his association found it fitting that it be used as an Olympic qualifier to give local athletes a chance of making the Olympic team. On why they have opted for the 2 hours 18 minutes time for qualification, which is a B Standard qualification requirement for the Olympics, Gaseitsiwe said their intention is to encourage athletes to participate in the event.
“It is the BAA’s prerogative to identify what we want and we know that at the moment we do not have many athletes who can run faster times in this event. The intention is to help them (athletes) to develop,” the BAA technical officer added.
Gaseitsiwe further said that with the lucrative sponsorship from local cellular giants Mascom and the attractive prize money that comes with it, he expects more international athletes to grace the future races. Meanwhile, the cut-off time for registration for the marathon and other races during the event has been set to midday on Friday. Athletes are expected to register for either the main event, which is a gruelling 42.2 km run, the 15 km race or the 4 km race. The 42 km event is expected to start at 0600 in the morning while the last race, which is a 4 km event, will start at 0700 hrs.
On other issues related to the event, statements from the race organisers say the race’s defending champion, Raobina Ramoseka, will not be taking part in this year’s event. The statements however say other top local athletes, like Ndabili Bashingili have already confirmed their participation at the event.
Ramoseka posted a time of 2:20:52 to clinch last year’s race while Bashingili came second behind him. This year’s race is expected to attract athletes from as far as Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa.