BNOC perfects Baton exchange ahead of Gold Coast
Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) and athletics coaches are convinced that local sprinters need to be drilled on baton exchange to avoid the blunders seen at the 2017 World Championships where Nijel Amos and Karabo Sibanda botched the exchange in the 4X400 metres race.
BNOC is working to perfect the athletes’ technique, in preparation for Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast this coming April. Botswana, who were title favourites for the London World Athletics Championships missed out on the men’s 4×400 meters relay final after the baton slipped from Sibanda’s hand after an exchange between him and Olympic Silver medallist, Amos went wrong. The team finished sixth ahead of Japan.
BNOC has set a minimum of 8 medals to be brought home from the Commonwealth Games in April this year. The committee is banking mainly on athletics, and to a certain extent boxing to bring home the bulk of the medals. Apart from athletics and boxing, the 27 athletes’ contingent will come from weightlifting, swimming and lawn-bowls.
BNOC is of the view that should the baton exchange technique among other things be refined, the 8 medals target is achievable. “Yes it is very much possible looking at the quality of athletes we have,” BNOC CEO Tuelo Serufho responded when asked if the target is achievable. “But we will have to work on other areas including baton exchange and avoiding injuries going to the games,” he added.
“We are working on areas like dipping when we approach the finish line and baton exchange because we have been looking at the past videos of our athletes in that regard, and the response is good so far,” team coach Mogomotsi Otsetswe said. He believes, with the availability of a psychologist, Physiotherapist, dietician, and other essential personnel they will do well at the games. The team previously struggled with specialists while in preparations for various competitions.
“We had a training camp last year which closed down just before Christmas, the team resumed the camp last week,” said Serufho. “In February we will take a different direction, others will go outside for the preparations depending on the sport code while others remain. Mind you the team will go to Gold Coast earlier to acclimatize as the weather is different,” he added. The relay team is arguably the anchor of the local contingent and if any medal would come from athletics the relay team would be the biggest medal contributor.
The team will train at Pretoria High Performance Centre which is believed to be ideal by the athletics community. The team will in the training camp try the best relay combinations, last fitness checks and other running techniques, according to the association’s VP Technical Kenneth Kikwe. BNOC has been given P3 million by government as a mobilization fee with an undisclosed balance still expected to be credited.
Athletics, despite being tagged perennial strugglers in the world stage is looked up to, to bring back a medal at the Commonwealth competitions. Nijel Amos’ gold medal was the only offer on the taking for a 19 member contingent in 2014. At the 2010 games, athletics made history by notching the first ever gold medal for this country at the games through Amantle Montsho. High Jumper Kabelo Kgosiemang got bronze with pugilists, Tirafalo Seoko and Oteng Oteng getting silver and bronze respectively.
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AFRICA’S RECOVERY: Sports as game changer
The year 2022 witnessed unprecedented phenomena. Several Africans- Gotytom Gebreslase, Sharon Lokedi, Victor Kiplangat, Tamarit Tola and many others- swept the World’s marathons records.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting control measures implemented in several countries, led to many high-level sports competitions being cancelled or shelved, the Dakar 2022 Youth Olympic Games was moved to 2026.
Founder and Executive Chairman, African Sports and Creative Institute, Will Mabiakop, says the inability to hold traditional and amateur sports events have had a serious effect on public health overall, including mental health, sparking a revolution whereby athletes began to talk more openly about stress, mental overload and performance anxiety.
“Africa is home to the fastest growing economies before the crisis, no longer on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). COVID-19 deepened interdependence between SDGs, making them harder to achieve, especially SDG 10 (reducing inequality) and SDG 5 (gender equality_ as the pandemic had a disproportionate impact on poorer countries, and heavier burdens (such as care work) fell to women.”
Mabiakop stresses that as policymakers contemplate actions to speed up recovery and build resilience, they must argue that sports and creative businesses should play a central feature in this effort.
“The sports economy worldwide is estimated at 5% of GDP, but only 0.5% in Africa. If exploited, Africa’s sports and creative industries can offer policymakers innovative solutions. Especially, as regards job creation, and providing employment to the 15 million people entering the job market annually.”
HOW CAN THE INDUSTRY DO THIS?
By leveraging the two-for-one concept: past studies shown that a 1% growth in the economy delivers a 2% job increment in this sector (these ratios are calculated using data from 48 African countries and adjusted to the reality of the sports economy in Africa by the authors). There are between 30 and 50 job types, in sports and creative industries, respectively. These jobs do not fade away with the first major shock.
Mabiakop indicated that policymakers can use these industries to tackle multiple crises- jobs, poverty, and climate risks. Sports diplomacy- defined as communication, representation and negotiation in or through the prism of sports- has proven effective in building inclusive and cohesive societies. Moreover, sports and the creative industry can support better mental health and well-being, both important for productivity.
“Policymakers can also be true to the game by leveraging culture and tradition to celebrate identity and reap commercial value in sports, textiles and jewelry. Creative sectors allow deeper connection with culture, are not easily copied and provide great economic potential.”
He said supporting grassroots sports has powerful distributional effects. “Fortunately, technology has made reaching wide audiences easier, generating higher rates of success when talent is discovered.”
However, Mabiakop held that potential pitfalls must be highlighted. “First avoid build it and they will come policies with infrastructures denuded from the rest of the ecosystem. Like the many sports stadiums left largely unused.”
“Policymakers must remain mindful of how these sectors move the needle in human capital development. Also, align the requisite public policies needed for progress from grassroots participation to professional sports, and even to international sporting events. They should also support investment instruments to render these sectors performant.”