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.
A recent study shows that Township Rollers is not only popular within the perimeters of Botswana, but has also made significant steps within the digital football platforms in Africa.
Out of the 70 African football clubs ranked on the African football digital benchmark, Township Rollers comes on the 35th position backed by a massive social media following. The club website records more than 399 000 followers and is seen as the most interactive in the local game.
This is consistent with the recent study conducted by FIFA- world football governing body- that Rollers is the only team locally that makes use of its digital platforms.
Notably, it comes out that the gap between Township Rollers and the rest of the 15 Premier League clubs is abysmal, this therefore works against creating a strong BPL brand value.
Rollers is the only club with more than 50 000 followers on Facebook, more than 20 000 followers on Twitter while its Instagram platform stands strong at 27 800 followers.
However, it is found out that much of the BPL brand value is killed by some social Facebook football fan accounts. They have stood long and have thus attracted more followers than the official accounts. Pages like Killers Pass and Botswana Football have consequently seen more than 100 000 following. Both of the accounts give 24 hour on-going updates of football’s latest news, transfers, results, video and live updates.
FIFA has therefore come to a conclusion that the two social media pages have grown interactive since they incite followers to answer and present their impressions about local football.
It comes into the open that 70 percent of domestic premier league clubs do not have official websites. This according to FIFA, kills the brand and visibility of clubs hence failure to attract lucrative sponsors by the clubs. FIFA also found out that the remaining 30 percent of clubs with websites are lacklustre and found wanting when it comes to their online presence. But in this regard, Rollers is on pole position.
Hard tackling midfielder, Lebogang Ditsele has completed a move from Botswana Premier League (BPL) champions, Jwaneng Galaxy, to Gaborone United in a reported lucrative two-year deal, WeekendSport can confirm.
The Reds have finally made their move for their long-time target and the enterprising midfielder is said to be happy to have completed the transfer after a heavy fall out with Galaxy management.
He wants to play football that pays, something which Galaxy cannot offer and the allure of GU was certainly too much for Ditsele to turn a blind eye.
The team as led and directed by construction magnate, Nicholas Zakhem- who is reported to have given ‘CCTV’ a mouth-watering P30 000 per month plus winning bonuses contract in demonstration of their seriousness to win silverware.
Sometime in March, the industrious player gave Galaxy an ultimatum-to either improve his contract benefits or let him go-after a decision was taken to offer the whole team pay cuts amid the devastating effects of the corona virus pandemic.
Galaxy had arrived at a conclusion of giving each player P 3000 until a time football returns to the field with moneyed sponsorships.
“We are proud to have signed him because he will add quality to our squad once football returns. Always a quality player and like him and he is now available, you don’t say there is no football, you tie him down before other clubs beat you to his signature,” said club Director, Nicholas Zakhem.
It is believed that Ditsele has always recognized GU as one of the country’s leading clubs, capable of competing for the grandest prizes. Ditsele was at Gilport Lions before he was snatched up by Galaxy and now GU. His moves come as no surprise as his dream has always been to play for high paying clubs.
No doubt, Ditsele has enjoyed his years at Galaxy, where he is feted by the supporters, but the lad has always felt that the time is right to move on. Ditsele leaves having a year left on his contract.
It is impossible to dispute the value and service that he has given to the club, with the last season being his best, winning the premiership title.
Once Galaxy has sent him to overseas club at Highlands Park but returned home after a short stint.
However, the fan favourite, who has had an on and off relationship with the national team, The Zebras, was never going to be held by the terms of his contract.
Despite encountering an injury scare ahead of the IAAF Diamond League circuit this week, Nijel Amos’ Olympic dream is still on track and he remains ever capable to stun the world by replicating his famous feat at the 2012 Olympic Games.
This was confirmed by his coaches and doctors after the Botswana star suffered a minor calf injury that forced him out of the weekend race. The multiple conqueror of 800m races is expected back on the track on June 9th to shake off this injury scare and face the possibilities of winning another Olympic medal. This likelihood only has one month to go!
Amos remains the only Motswana athlete to ever win a medal at the Olympic Games, a rare but magnificent accomplishment that still lingers in the memory of Botswana sport fraternity. At the time, he was only 18 years and strange enough, that silver medal felt like Gold for many.
His anticipated presence at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is on course to renew the long standing rivalry between him and the Kenyan 800m world record holder, David Rudisha. This is the same Kenyan competitor who won Gold when Botswana’s Amos came second in a race that would become the toast of the competitions at the London Olympics.
However, two years later, at 2014 Commonwealth Games, Amos dethroned Rudisha in another breath-taking race that confirmed and sparked the ongoing thrilling competitiveness — filled with pleasure, pain and sporting hatred- between the two.
When Amos was beaten in London, he never cared who won the race but was ecstatic to have finished at the podium, writing his name into Olympic Game folklore.
But in Glasgow, for Rudisha, defeat seemed not to have diminished his hopes. After the finish, when the lacerations were sharpest and the wound deepest, Rudisha was pictured hugging Nijel Amos, and congratulating him for a job well done.
Then, Amos was just 20 years, oozing with confidence. The shy looking Rudisha wrapped a Kenyan flag around his back and went on a lap of honour to celebrate his silver medal.
If there was disappointment Rudisha masked it with the skill of an actor. He smiled and waved as he received a standing ovation. “Amos is a tough competitor and he was very good,” Rudisha once admitted, stating matters of sporting facts that would follow between the two runners. Win. Lose. Win. Lose.
But then, there have been echoes of a swollen Muhammad Ali after his defeat to Joe Frazier, winking at the hundreds of fans who had converged at his hotel, determined to show light on his darkest day. The bruises on that day were to Rudisha’s record, not his face. Like Ali, he promised to be back.
But that night was about Amos. A callow 18-year-old who finished second to Rudisha at London 2012 sharpened his confidence, hardened by beating his idol twice on the Diamond League circuit, grew with each passing year.
However, both athletes began to suffer sporting injuries of their own, they lost the edge they were well-known for and it is why at the 2016 Olympic Games, the bookmakers were upset when they could not meet at the final. It was Amos who faltered in the heats and although Rudisha became the first Kenyan to retain an Olympic title, it was not as scintillating as it was in 2012.
Now with a month to go, Amos is living in prayer, hoping he stays free from injuries. He is looking forward to become the star again. He has won everything at the diamond league and broke every national record, but his eyes are still fixed on the ultimate prize- the Gold medal at the international stage, with or without David Rudisha.