Against the odds

Baitshepi Sekgweng
IN ACTION : Jack and George during the ZONE VI Beach Volleyball Series

Beach Volleyball stars face Olympic qualifier challenges

As the 2024 Paris Olympic Africa Beach Volleyball qualifiers approach, Botswana’s beach volleyball stars, Sekao Jack and George Chiswaniso, find themselves in a challenging position.

While other teams are fine-tuning their skills through tours across Africa and Europe, the local boys are stuck in Botswana, training with their individual clubs.

The Olympic qualifiers, set for June 19-23 in Morocco, will see teams battling for a single coveted Olympic spot.

Jack and Chiswaniso earned their place in the continental phase of the qualifiers after finishing second in the zonal qualifiers in Mozambique last November.

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On paper, Mozambique, Botswana, and hosts Morocco are the favorites for the single Olympic spot. However, the competition will be fierce, with teams from Senegal, The Gambia, Togo, Nigeria, Algeria, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Mauritius, Kenya, Rwanda, Guinea Bissau, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Egypt, and Niger all eager for a shot at Olympic glory.

In an exclusive interview with Voice Sport, Botswana Volleyball Federation (BVF) President Tsoseletso Magang revealed the struggles faced in securing a training camp in Europe for the pair.

“Training in Europe failed because we couldn’t acquire visas. We found people willing to accommodate us in Slovenia, but getting a visa there was difficult. Even with Italy, it was unsuccessful since their athletes were already out of the country preparing for their continental cup,” Magang explained.

Despite financial constraints not being an issue, all hope is not lost. The BVF is working on getting the team to Morocco early for training.

“We are struggling in Southern Africa because we don’t have many beach volleyball series and tournaments, especially at times like these when athletes have a good chance of qualifying for the Olympics. So we are working on taking the team to Morocco as early as possible so they can train before the games start. The disadvantage of training locally is that the beach conditions are different. We want them to experience the same conditions they will play in if they qualify,” added Magang.

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As of June 3, 2024, the duo was ranked 97th in the world and second in Africa, behind Mozambique.

Their notable achievements in 2024 include a third-place finish at the All Africa Games, third place at the CAVB Zone VI All Africa Games qualifiers, and first place at the CAVB Zone VI BVB Tour series in Gaborone.

Despite lukewarm preparations and a lack of comparable international experience to their counterparts from Morocco, Egypt, and Algeria, Jack and Chiswaniso have a history of defying the odds.

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They will surely not make it easy for the experienced Moroccans, who will benefit from home ground advantage, and the Mozambicans, with whom they have been battling for the number one spot in Africa.


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