As the world reconsiders, BNOC is still agog for Tokyo 2020

With the COVID-19 pandemic still hanging like an albatross on the Games and causing increasing circumspection around the world, BNOC has sent athletes for more training in SA in preparation for Tokyo 2020

As the world reconsiders, BNOC is still agog for Tokyo 2020
BRAZIL, Rio De Janeiro August 13, 2016, Karabo Sibanda went through to the final. Karabo Sibanda became the youngest Motswana to make it to the 400m final at the Olympics at the age of 18. Pic:MONIRUL BHUIYAN/PRESS PHOTO)

While some countries are wary of sending their athletes to the Tokyo Olympics in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and detection of more contagious variants in many countries, the Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) is still determined to ensure that Team Botswana is ready to go to the Games.

According to BNOC’s Strategy and Business Development Manager, Baboni Kupe, nothing has changes in preparations for participation in Tokyo 2020. The Games were postponed by a year because of the pandemic and are now scheduled for July 23 to August 8. The postponement came after resistance from nations and athletes to hold the Games in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that the world was just coming to grips with last year.

“Whilst we are cognisant of the effect that the pandemic has had on international travel, we continue to strive towards ensuring that our athletes shall be present, representing the country is at the Games,” Kupe said in an interview with The Business Weekly Sports.

“In preparing the teams, we are ensuring that all the necessary precautions are taken to mitigate against exposure to the virus. Barring a directive from the Government of Botswana and/or our parent ministry preventing our team’s participation, the BNOC will facilitate our athletes’ participation in the Tokyo 2020 Games.”

This is the sports body that has sent athletes to South Africa to further their preparations while others went to try beat qualification benchmarks. “The NOC is targeting both local and outside competitions to prepare athletes,” Kupe said. “This plan depends on confirmation of these events and also COVID-19 regulations and restrictions in those countries.”

The athletes who are currently in South Africa include Isaac Makwala, Amantle Montsho and Karabo Sibanda. They are expected to take part in a series of events organised by Athletics South Africa.

Kupe took the opportunity to explain BNOC’s medal target discrepancy with its affiliate, the Botswana Athletics Association (BAA). In an interview earlier this month, she noted that BNOC was targeting two medals at the Games BAA’s aim was three medals. “All organisations are autonomous and therefore set targets having considered a variety of factors,” she said.

She noted that initially the BNOC had a target of four medals that was set in the NOC 2017-2020 Strategic Plan, which the BNOC had presented to all national federations, BAA included. “This target was set as a result of a consultative process with BNOC members, BAA being one of them,” she said. “However, as a result of the pervasive impact of the COVID-19 pandemic globally, which included disruptions to our preparations and qualification plan, the BNOC made the decision to revise this target to two.”

Nevertheless Kupe said BNOC welcomes  BAA’s more ambitious aim. “This is indicative of their drive as we work towards the Games and their dedication to having their athletes perform at their best to make the nation proud,” she said.

Meanwhile, local boxing sensation, Rajab Otukile, last week became the sixth local athlete and second boxer to qualify for the Games. He joins fellow boxer Keamogetse Kenosi and runners Amantle Montsho, Galefele Moroko, Christine Botlogetswe and Nijel Amos on the local qualification list.