Exactly 10 years ago, an unknown local athlete’s name came onto the lips of almost every Motswana after qualifying for the finals of the Olympics in Sydney Australia.
Even though he ended up finishing in seventh spot, Glody Dube made Botswana proud because it was for the first time ever a local athlete qualified for the finals.
Before the finals many Batswana just thought that local athletes would just fair badly as was the case in the previous big international events. Three years after the Olympics Botswana athletes took by storm the All Africa Games held in Nigeria as the 4 by 4 relay won gold ahead of big teams like the hosts.
A year later at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, the same relay team and Dube qualified for the finals. All the achievements were the best for Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) and for the country.
A month ago, the achievement by BAA even soared as they clinched the gold medal and a bronze at the much competitive Commonwealth Games that were held in New Delhi, India.
The gold was won by none other than Amantle Montsho in the 400m race while the bronze was won by high jumper, Kabelo Kgosiemang.
The bigger achievement for Montsho is that she broke the Games’ long standing record.
The achievements by BAA at international events surpass that of other sports codes because they win at big stages where it is really tough.
The technical officer of the BAA, Bobby Gaseotsiwe, told Sunday Standard that their achievements are through hard work and did not come through sheer luck.
He said for so many years BAA has had several programmes, which are now bearing fruit.
“What we realized as the BAA was that there was no continuity in our programs and, as such, it was always going to be difficult to replace good athletes once they call it quits. What is happening now is that we have so many talented youngsters who are understudying those that are already in the limelight,” he said.
Gaseitsiwe gave an example of Kgalalelo Sefu, Zacharia Kambereku and the women 4 by 4 relay that did exceptionally well at the just ended Commonwealth Games even though they also did not bring medals. “Currently our most decorated athlete is Montsho but when she started participating in several big international events she did not perform well like our upcoming athletes.
This shows you that these athletes can take the world by storm in a few years to come, provided we work hard,” he said.
Gaseitsiwe added that exposure of athletes is necessary. He gave the example of Montsho when she participated at the 2004 Olympics. He said Montsho did not qualify but they had to use a Wild Card for her to go. He said she did not do well at all but learned valuable lessons that are now helping her to succeed.
Gaseitsiwe also paid tribute to the Cubans who are helping various sports codes around the country. He said they are playing a pivotal role and as such the Botswana National Sports Council should keep providing various sports codes with such expertise.
The major challenge that Gaseitsiwe said BAA is facing is that of financial capital. He said currently Montsho is excelling because she is training at a high performance centre in Senegal. This means other athletes who also have potential of making it big have to also go for specialized training.
The other challenge for Botswana is also that high performance centers accommodate athletes from various countries and cannot be dominated by a single country. As such it would be difficult for current athletes to go to Senegal.
Gaseitsiwe, however, emphasized that they are looking into establishing their own high performance centre. He said they have already applied to the International Athletics Association and are waiting for their response.
BAA has also produced excellent athletes in the past, like Gable Garenamotse and Kabelo Mmono in triple and high jump, respectively.
They always brought medals from major international events.