After qualifying for individual events for the last Olympics that were held in Rio, Brazil the trio of Karabo Sibanda, Baboloki Thebe and Boitumelo Masilo will miss Tokyo 2020 after they failed to qualify.To make the cut for the Olympics, the trio had to obtain a qualification standard of 44.90 seconds in the 400m by June 29 2021. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) set 29 June 2021 as the deadline for the qualification period for the Tokyo Games that were rescheduled from winter last year to this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of the three, only Thebe has run a tantalisingly close time of 45.56 seconds in the 400m that he recorded on June 26 in Potchefstroom, South Africa after Masilo clocked 45. 86 seconds in Gaborone on April 17. With a best time of 47.82 seconds in the 400m that he clocked on 6 May in Potchefstroom, South Africa Sibanda trails the two.
Asked for reasons that may be behind the failure of the trio considering that they are still young, the national athletics team coach, Justice Dipeba, said different challenges that can affect athletes.
“When we look at Sibanda, he was affected by injuries for a very long time, resulting in him being inactive for years,” Dipeba said. “So it was always going to be difficult for him to qualify. Thebe has also been running with injuries and had personal issues. Masilo only switched from 800m to 400m this year.”
Dipeba emphasised his hope that the three athletes will bounce back soon and make the nation proud of their performance in their individual events again. “Batswana need to understand that a lot of sacrifice is required in sports,” he added. “The athletes also need guidance and support in order to return to where we all want them. They are very talented athletes and I see them bouncing back very soon.”
But will they make the cut for the Olympic team for the 4x400m? Dipeba noted that this time around, the technical team is going to be “very strict” in selections. “We are going to register only six athletes for the relay,” he said. “This means we are going to pick the team according to personal bests in the 400m this year. We are not going to pick according to history.”