Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) is seeking to shift attention to middle distance running as preparations and qualifications for Olympics games gain momentum. The association harbours strong views that the country’s potential glory at the international competition is highly likely to come from the 400 and 800m races.
BAA President, Paphane Botlhale recently told WeekendSport that his association will swing focus and channel more resources towards athletes participating in these races. This modus operandi, hopefully, will enable BAA to send a large contingent of athletes by virtue of qualification to the Tokyo summer Olympics. The BAA President stated that for the longest time, the country has marked itself as a force to be reckoned with when it comes to middle distance races.
“Currently our training camp team is made up of the 400m runners both male and female, 800m runner, one athlete who runs in the hurdles and the relay teams,” Botlhale said. However, others hold mixed views on the BAA bias, the national team coach Justice Dipeba observed that the association is primarily focused on middle distance because the athletes under the aforementioned discipline have been outstanding. He said they have been performing well as compared to the 100m and 200m athletes, hence the preparatory training camp for the upcoming Olympics is laden with the 400m and 800m talent.
Speaking directly to the 400m and 800 bias, Dipeba said BAA’s decision to focus on the middle distance running should not be the norm. Dipeba said, “I beg to differ. It’s not a good idea if we can follow that path because this will disadvantage other athletes as they will fell neglected,” Dipeba said the short distance races are more technical and time consuming than any other field discipline. The training methods are far demanding and as such need full time coaches who can develop and monitor the progress of the athletes.
It is not that the country cannot produce athletes from such discipline. “It is simple, we still have a serious lack of coaches in this area,” he said. The renowned athletics coach said it is easy to train middle distance runners as the coach develops the program and the athletes can always follow it during off season without difficulties. He said currently BAA has no full time coach because most of them are offer their services on voluntary services.
Men’s 400m Athletes
One of the country’s 400m prospects is the legendary Isaac Makwala who hails from Tutume village. The 33 year old runner won his first major championship gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games held at Gold Coast in Australia after an impressive 44.35. Makwala however believes his late start in professional sport is the reason he reached his peak in 2018.
In 2017, at Atletico Madrid, the 400m captivating runner became the first man ever to run the 200m in under 20 seconds (19.77) and the 400m in under 44 seconds (43.92) on the same day. His personal best in 400m is 43.72. Baboloki Thebe is one of the country’s most decorated field sprinters who specialises in the 400 metres. The sprinter made a breakthrough in the 400m in May 2016, with a run of 44.22 seconds placing him third on the global seasonal lists and moving him into the all-time top 30 for the event. Thebe overcame an injury scare to win a silver medal in the 400m at 2018 Commonwealth Games when he completed 1-2 for the country after Makwala bagged a gold medal at the continental showpiece. .
Women 400m Athletes
In the women’s 400m category, Christine Botlogetswe, the Rakops born athlete, was in peak form last year managing to finish fourth in the ladies 400m final at the Commonwealth Games. The 25 year old managed to qualify for her maiden Diamond League final albeit an injury. She has a season’s best (SB) of 50.48, it is also her personal best (PB). Botlogetswe went to last year’s World Championship in Doha ranked 11th in this year’s World women’s 400m race. She has already booked her place at this year Olympics.
In 2019, Galefele Moroko won her maiden senior continental gold medal at the African Games which were held in Morocco. Moroko managed to lower her Personal best (PB) from 53.28 to 51.30, a score which she managed to attained at the African Games. Being ranked 43rd in last season’s World women’s 400m race. The Maun native has qualified for this year Tokyo 2020 Olympics after winning her first gold last year at the All Africa Games. This is a clear indication, according to BAA, that middle distance could deliver medals if given the attention it deserves.
Amid the confusion surrounding the date of the Botswana Football Association (BFA) elections, the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, met with three presidential candidates on Thursday morning to discuss a plethora of problems bedevilling the domestic game.
The candidates are Maclean Letshwiti, the current President, Tebogo Sebego, the firm challenger of the BFA throne, together with Ookeditse Malesu who enters the race for the first time in his sporting career. There were other two unnamed officials who are said to be representatives from the sport ministry.
The Sport minister is said to have adopted a hard-nosed approach to register his disappointment and worry that the uncertainty of the upcoming elections have injured the administration of the local game.
Highly placed sources at the Sport ministry say that the minister’s ‘no gloves barred’ approach comes at the behest of the BFA’s constant negative headlines regarding their leadership style as of going into the elections.
It is said that Rakgare was also worried that the current administration is keeping the other two camps in the dark regarding the planning and processes bordering on election issues. This, he said has led to unnecessary speculations and back biting that is not needed to lift the game at a time when it is on its knees.
He was to rattle a few feathers at one incident when he called all the three leaders of the game to put their houses in order. As if that was not enough, the minister called on the three lobby groups to desist from serving personal interests but put focus on developing the game.
Interestingly, sources point out that the minister was livid but urged both Letshwiti and Sebego groups to refrain from tarnishing the good image of the ministry. This, he said in response to wide ranging allegations that he is taking sides as campaigns are ongoing.
The Sebego group accuses him of de campaigning Sebego and having a soft spot for Team Letshwiti while the same Letshwiti group is saying the same thing about the minister as having taking curious interest in Sebego camp.
The minister is alleged to have told the leaders that if they do not change their leadership style of protecting those looting public funds, his ministry would intervene even if it means attracting the wrath of FIFA, which is known for its notorious sanctions when countries do not toe the line. He urges BFA to be accountable at all the times they will cut the annual subventions that goes to them, sources claim.
This is not for the first time that the BFA was lectured on good governance. At one incident in 2015, former Minster of Sport Thapelo Olopeng dressed down the then Tebogo Sebego leadership regarding good governance.
BFA was at the time closely monitored by the ministry. Instead of the usual transactions that normally go through BFA, national team players received their allowances straight from government in the form of cheques. To demonstrate that government has taken a firm stand against BFA, players’ allowances were no longer routed through the association.
Nobody from the said meeting will address this publication enquiry all indicating that the consultation is never meant for public consumption.
If everything goes according to plan, the Botswana Football Association (BFA) will hold its annual general assembly next month through a virtual conference.
There has been much uncertainty as to how and when the congress will be held seeing as how COVID-19 protocols remain stringent on gatherings.
Sources speaking with this publication say the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the association has agreed to hold the congress within COVID-19 zones, consequently dispelling all the lingering doubts surrounding the life and soul of the assembly.
As it stands, there are nine COVID -19 zones in Botswana. The association is therefore contemplating to rely within four zones where live streaming will take centre stage for the first time in the history of BFA elections.
The congress was first billed for August 8th but was postponed to August 22nd. However, the second date could not see the light of the day as the country recorded a second rise of coronavirus cases that promptly led to greater Gaborone going into yet another lockdown.
The association has been procrastinating over the virtual congress idea with the election agenda remaining a sticky issue. Many advices came flooding that the association is free to make any decision about the congress but should be very careful not to compromise the integrity of the vote.
Sources indicate to this paper that the association is likely to rely on four COVID-19 zones, namely Gaborone, Francistown, Jwaneng and Palapye. The need to plant the meeting on virtual technologies hinges on the fact that the COVID -19 health protocols do not permit people to cross zones to hold meetings.
Information gleaned from various sources is that the association is looking to rely on four zones primarily because of the limited number of personnel under the electoral board. There are five members consisting of this committee and by the look of things; the association will not be allowed to outsource more election overseers at the eleventh hour. Sources argue that the whole cautious exercise is meant to avoid complaints that may arise after elections are held.
The virtual meeting comes after many failed attempts by the association to convince the Kereng Masupu led Task Force to give out a special dispensation. On many occasions, the Task Force refused to allow for the assembly to go on saying “football is not a priority.”
The assembly is expected to be held next month but the exact date still remains a subject of speculation. In the end, Tebogo Sebego will stand again for the second time to unseat Maclean Letshwiti while Ookeditse Malesu is standing for the first time to try and wrestle for BFA power.
The Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, is eager to lead crunch talks that will consequently see Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) and Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) becoming one authoritative sport entity.
The appointment of one Tuelo Serufho to the plum position of BNSC Chief Executive Officer two week ago has further catalysed the intention to merge the sports bodies to avoid the long standing complaints of duplication of roles by the two.
Serufho was replacing Falcom Sedimo whose contract was not renewed.Serufho, ironically is the longest serving CEO of BNOC and also a board member of BNSC.“One of our aims is to form a robust sport body to centralize and improve decision making processes and maybe the time to resuscitate BNSC/BNOC merger is now,” Rakgare briefly shared.
The impending move is highly meant to improve effective functioning, governance and performance of sports in the country both locally and globally.Should this see the light of day, Botswana would have done itself a favour and it would start sending a handful of athletes to international competitions.
The amalgamation of BNSC/BNOC talks have been in the pipelines but discussions were aborted two years ago without clear reasons. The creation of this all-encompassing sport institution is overdue according to the minister.
“It is in fact our mandate to make sure this happens, it is overdue and by next year we hope to have finalised our position paper,” Rakgare added.The creation of the looming body is borne out of lessons learnt from various sports governance models around the world.
In South Africa, the sports ministry facilitated discussions to merge National Olympic Committee of South Africa (NOCSA) and the South African Sports Commission. Their authoritative sports body is now called South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC).
With the South African model well in place, Botswana is urged to bench mark and create a sport body as a civic society-based organisation as required by the statutes of international sports bodies.The name of the local sport body is mooted and the minister refused to give a hint. But he is optimistic that the body will be the vanguard organization of sport in the country.
He emphasized that the sports organisation should be a purposeful guardian for governance and management of sports and be the required defining figure of the role of sports in Botswana’s communities.Talks to revamp and rebuild these sports bodies come at a time when BNSC is restructuring.
When Sedimo was still at the helm, he wanted to phase out some positions which he felt were unnecessary.BNSC receive close to 53 million Pula as grants from the government through the Ministry of Youth, Sports development and Culture empowerment while BNOC takes a figure a closer to that.