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.
The Botswana national boxing team recently returned from the zone 4 championship held in Mozambique. The team was led by head coach Thebe Setlalekgosi, two assistant coaches, Gibson Rauwe and Pearl Mooketsi. Two referees and judges, Gaseitsewe Ponatshego and Linda Mooketsi.
In the women’s category, Lethabo Modukanele was representing Botswana in the 48 kg division, while Phekie Bele and Sadie Kenosi were competing in the 57 kg and 60 kg categories, respectively. In the men’s category, Kobamelo Molatlhegi was representing the country in the 52 kg division, while Rajab Mahomed was competing in the under 51 kg category.George Molwantwa was competing for under 57 kg category and Treasure Moremi was competing for under 60kg category.
The boxers came home with seven medals, Modukanele came home with a gold medal, Kenosi, Rajab, Molatlhegi all came home with silver medals. While Moremi, Molwantwa and Phekie Bele all came home with bronze medals.
According to Moitshepi Nkabiti, the public relations officer of the Botswana Boxing Association, the team performed well and that they were hoping that Rajab would also bring home a gold medal. However, due to an eye injury, he could not participate in the finals.
He stated that, “though some people might think that how our team performed is not an achievement it is a big achievement to us. Other countries came with 19 boxers while we only came with our seven boxers, and they all came back with medals. That is something that we have to be proud of I really commend them for their performance. Having 5 players making it to the finals is really a blessing and we should not take it for granted.”
According to Nkabiti, Botswana was ranked fourth in the zone 4 championship, which was held in Mozambique. Other countries that participated in the tournament included South Africa, Zambia, Eswatini, and Seychelles. They all had a total of 19 boxers. Lesotho also had eight boxers.
The first Mascom Charity Cup spectacular has come and gone. The football event played at Obed Itani Chilume Stadium saw four football clubs playing one-day tourney with various charity centres being beneficiaries of the gate takings.
While the attendance was not at the expected level, it is said that the sponsor has made a killing with close to P500 000 made from voting lines. Football followers were asked to vote for teams of their choice, and top four clubs were eligible to play. A single sms voting line cost P 1.50.
Gaborone United became the most voted team with 62 984 votes followed by Security Systems with 51 027. On the third spot was BDF XI with 48 596 votes while Orapa United came forth with 44 401. Shockingly, Township Rollers did not make it after gathering a total of 30 637 votes, with BR Highlanders ahead of them having seen 44 204 votes to their name.
It is said, however that, the initiative live to expectation as clubs together with the sponsor have managed to assist charities of their choices. Mascom is believed to be happy for identifying beneficiaries and getting value for their money.
The mobile network company is still the longest standing partners of local football, having first tasted waters in 2005. The company now powers the Top 8 competition and said to have renewed the dame sponsorship at a value not exceeding 18 million. The Mascom Charity Cup was not the first to be hosted by a mobile network company.
In 2018, Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) hosted a similar event in which followers had to vote. The four participating teams were Mochudi Center Chiefs, Gaborone United, Orapa United and Township Rollers. GU were the eventual winners.
It is however not clear if the tournament will continue in the next football calendar, but what goes down into the history books is that Teenage Mpote and Orapa United were the first to win it. In previous years, there have been an off season tournament whose aim was meant for charity purposes. The tourney was called Kabelano Charity Cup and was usually played by four big teams (Rollers, Notwane, GU and Chiefs) without taking the voting routes. It was last hosted in 2015 and had Barclays as the sponsors.
Yet another thrilling showdown is expected between the country’s hottest strikers, Thabang Sesinyi of Jwaneng Galaxy and Thataoyaone Kgamanyane of Gaborone United, as the duo are eyeing for the 2021/2022 Golden boot.
With only four Botswana Premier League (BPL) games left, the race for the honours is rolling towards a thrilling climax, but for two individuals there is a race for an accolade of their own taking place that could easily go down to the final minutes of the season. Leading the pack with 19 goals is Jwaneng Galaxy talisman, Sesinyi who is one goal apart from Kgamanyane who has netted 18 goals thus far.
Both players have their eye on the golden boot, hoping that their respective teams have fixtures to put them in with a realistic chance of catching up, or leaving the other behind. The Money Machine is currently at the summit of the BPL log with 61 points while the mining giant, Galaxy are trailing on the third place with 49 points, having played 24 games thus far.
Both teams (GU and Galaxy) are expected to face each other towards the end of the season, as the initial fixture was postponed due to Galaxy’s involvement in CAF championship group stages. With 19 goals chalked up for the season so far, Sesinyi is just one goal away from Kgamanyane who led the race for the better part of the campaign. Sesinyi who is on freakish scoring form has scored four goals in his last two games; a hat trick against Prisons XI and a goal against Sua Flamingoes in the midweek fixture.
But there is no doubt that Sesinyi is no longer playing to carry his team, Galaxy, as realistically there is a slim chance for them to clinch the 2021/2022 season, but he is eyeing the Golden Boot Award when the league falls off.
Kgamanyane has begun the season in tremendous form; scoring every time he is given a chance, while Sesinyi, on the other hand, reached the peak of his form in the second round of the season; scoring both in the domestic league and also on the CAF Champions’ league group stage. He featured on team of the week on February.
Furthermore, the Money Machine attacker showed some growth as his conversion rate has been on a rising graph in the games he has so far played. Although Kgamanyane’s goal scoring prowess has been there for everyone to see, the player has been hampered by injuries. It promises to be a fascinating battle between the duo.
Meanwhile, BPL this week announced that they will hold the 2021/2022 awards. The league has since added seven new categories to take the total number of categories to 16. Among some new categories are the Defender of the Season and Midfielder of the Season awards. There are also two more awards for the administrators, as the league has included Team Manager of the Season and the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Season awards.
The best performing players in this campaign will be included in the Premier League Best XI. Nevertheless, match day officials have also been recognised with the introduction of two more categories in the young Referee of the Season and the Female Referee of the Season. Furthermore, BFL CEO Solomon Ramochotlhwane indicated that the awards will be held on the 25 June 2022, just after the 2021-2022 season comes to an end.