Destiny awaits in Douala for “Athletics” Olympic dream

Baitshepi Sekgweng
FLYING THE FLAG: The men's 4x400m relay team have already qualified

The greatest sporting spectacle in the world, the Olympic Games, lies on the horizon, with Botswana rapidly running out of time to qualify more athletes for the famed event.

Set for the city of love, Paris, from 26 July to 11 August, Team BW would dearly love to add to their force in the French capital.

They have until 30 June to do so!

As it stands, Athletics is the only sports code to secure a place in Paris, with six male athletes and the ever-reliable men’s 4x400m relay team making the grade.

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Confident they can add to this tally before the month-end deadline, Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) have dispatched a 32-member team to Cameroon for the Africa Senior Championships and a last shot at Olympic qualification.

The six-day competition starts on Friday in the coastal city of Douala, with national team coach, Justice Dipeba admitting the cooler climate could prove a challenge.

“That might come as a disadvantage and it will be tough, but tough things always bring positive results. I always tell my athletes that conditions are the same everywhere, so we just have to stay positive, produce the results and hit the right times,” declared Dipeba.

Defending his charges, the vastly-experienced coach insisted six individual qualifications – the same number that competed at Tokyo 2020 – was a decent achievement.

“The standards are tough and have gone up this year. I don’t want to think we struggled to qualify looking at the numbers; it’s just that expectations are high from the public. Athletes who are competing locally and don’t have the means to compete outside Botswana will always struggle to meet the standards in terms of qualification, that’s what we are facing now. If you look at majority of athletes who qualified, they have done it at international competitions,” reasoned Dipeba, who is adamant those with potential will fare better if they get a chance to compete abroad.

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Destiny awaits in Douala for "Athletics" Olympic dream

Going into the continental competition in Cameroon, which runs from 21 to 26 June, 400m hurdlers, Victor Ntweng and Kemorena Tisang are two of BW’s best bets to power their way to Paris.

At the National Championships last month, Ntweng, 29, agonisingly missed out on qualification by six-hundredths of a second, clocking 48.76s when the required time is 48.70s.

His Maun Athletics Club teammate, Tisang, also came close, the 29-year-old stopping the clock at 49 seconds on the dot.

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Another hot Olympic prospect is ladies 800m ace, Oratile Nowe who has been hovering around the 1:59.30 qualification standard, running 1:59.91 at the P-T-S meeting in Slovakia on 24 May.

Even if she fails to meet the required time, the 24-year-old Serowe sensation would still force her way to France if she can maintain her current world ranking of 42, as the top 48-ranked runners automatically make the grade.

“With her points, she is in a good place and getting competitions in Europe will push her to get good times. Mixed relay we hope they will meet the standards but it’s really tough since other teams had good times and only few places remain,” added Dipeba.

Elsewhere, the beach volleyball duo of Sekao Jack and George Chiswaniso are battling away at the on-going Olympic Qualifiers in Morocco (19 – 23 June), trying desperately to spike BW’s Olympic numbers.

At the moment, those heading for the land of the Eiffel Tower include: Letsile Tebogo, Bayapo Ndori, Leungo Scotch, Busang Kebinatshipi, Tshepiso Masalela and Kethobogile Hanguira.

The list is short, and there’s little time to add to it!

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