BAA Sticks To 3-Medal Target

• Athletes body is undeterred by the prospect of trimming Team Botswana down from 18 to 15 because of budgetary constraints

BAA Sticks To 3-Medal Target
BRAZIL, Rio De Janeiro August 13, 2016, Karabo Sibanda through to he final. Karabo Sibanda becomes the youngest Motswana to make it to the 400m final at the Olympics at the age of 18. Pic:MONIRUL BHUIYAN/PRESS PHOTO)

Despite their preparations being disturbed by limited competitions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) is still hoping to win three medals at the Tokyo Olympics, this publication has established.

BAA has not been able to send athletes abroad for competitions or host competitions since March last year, thanks to COVID-19 strictures. The organisation’s vice president, Oabona Theetso, says limited competition will affect athletes’ fitness and confidence. “We will, however, try to do all we can to ensure that we bring home three medals from Tokyo,” Theetso said in an interview.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the Olympics, which were billed for Tokyo, Japan in July last year, to be deferred to July this year. The decision 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.

The postponement meant prolonged preparations with less competitions but a growing budget in Botswana. “We have been working with a team of 18 since last year but the Botswana National Olympic Committee is contemplating trimming it down to 15 mainly for budgetary reasons,” Theetso explained. “But we are still negotiating with them to let us continue with the team as it is.”

Approached about the issue of the size of Team Botswana, BNOC’s Strategy and Business Development Manager, Baboni Kupe, responded: “The spread of COVID-19 is not abating and the government is channelling more funds towards fighting this pandemic. The budget of the sport sector has been affected.”

Kupe said the fact that global qualification events are being cancelled while the Olympics are fast approaching is leaving BNOC with no choice but to streamline resources to athletes with a more realistic chance of qualifying. “It would not be financially prudent to continue spending money on athletes who are a bit far off from qualification, although we are cognizant of the fact that the lack of competitions since last year is a major contributor to their current rankings and performance,” she said.

This is not having any deleterious effect on Theetso and his crowd at BAA where the aim is to qualify at least 11 athletes on top of four who have already qualified. “We also want one of our 4x4 relay teams to qualify as well as a team for the mixed relay,” he said.

The athletes who have already qualified for the Olympics are Christine Botlogetswe, Galefele Moroko and Amantle Montsho who have all made their bookings to fly to the Games for the women’s 400m. The fourth athlete who has qualified for athletics is Nigel Amos.

Athletics is one of Botswana’s best performing sporting codes and is the only one to have won the country a medal at the Olympics so far, courtesy of young Amos who left the world awestruck after finishing second behind Kenyan David Rudisha in a blistering performance in the 800m final at the 2012 London Olympics when he recorded a time of 1:41.73.