With a hoard of 64 medals and a second spot ending, the team that represented Botswana at the just-ended African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Youth Games performed quite well.
Formerly known as the Supreme Council for Sports in Africa (SCSA) Zone V Games, the AUSC Games took place in Maseru, Lesotho from 3 to 12 December 2021 where South Africa finished in the pole position. Botswana’s medal haul comprises 24 golds 21 silvers and 19 bronzes, most of them claimed by the athletics team that bagged 11 golds, five silvers and four bronzes. This is significant because Team Botswana went to the Games with no medal target, with the sports ministry saying emphasis is yet on building for the future.
“I must hasten to state that notwithstanding the significant financial investment we have made and the robustness of our preparations in the midst of the challenges, Batswana should know that this time around, we will not be fighting to finish in the top three in the region,” the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, said at a ceremony to send the team off earlier this month.
He spoke of a change of philosophy and approach to development of athletes. “We are no longer looking at each Games as an end in themselves but as means to a far greater goal,” he said. “As a result, for the Maseru 2020 Games, we have intentionally selected younger athletes than those we usually send to the AUSC Region 5 Games.
“It is our intention to go far beyond this December with the team and to nurture them over the years such that come 2027 and 2028, they will be doing Botswana proud at the Africa Cup of Nations in football and the Los Angeles Olympic Games respectively.”
The AUSC Games take place on a biennial basis and target athletes under the age of 20 from sporting codes like football, athletics and netball. They have become a key development component and springboard for athletes, several of whom have passed through them to international stardom. Among them are Botswana’s Nigel Amos and Naomi Ruele and South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk. But Botswana’s celebrations were cut short after more than 40 members of the delegation to Lesotho (team members and officials) tested positive for COVID-19.