Hurdles champion publishes a novel
Local blogger, writer and athlete, Oarabile Babolai has recently published a novel titled The Long Road to Freedom.
Babolai, 25, is a 400m hurdles runner, and a 4X4 women’s relay team member who has participated in all-major international athletics competitions except the Olympics.
She is the current hurdles national record holder in 400m having clocked 58:09 and 100m with best time of 13:66.
She also managed to break a 10 -year Missouri State University 60m hurdles record of 8:55 and ran 8:51 time in 2015.
In 2010 she was awarded Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC) Junior Sports Person of the year.
Her outstanding performance earned her a scholarship at Missouri State University where she studied towards a Bachelor of Science Psychology and also did her track and field training.
Voice Reporter Portia Ngwako-Mlilo met with the young athlete to discuss her new book and athletics career.
Q. What inspired you to write a book?
A. My University English writing class professor. She often told me that I am a good writer so I decided to write a novel.
I also like reading, which is very important for an author to perfect their writing.
Being in a different country and environment for more than four years studying in Missouri State University in the US got me exposed to a different culture and helped me see things in a different way.
I am working on my second book, which will be about my life and athletics career to be published before the end of 2018.
Q. Explain the title of the book.
A. Set in the late 1700’s a slave girl from Africa travels to South Carolina where she meets a guy who eventually changes her life forever.
Ada was struggling as a slave. She met Carter and they started dating.
Being brought to South Carolina, finally gave her a chance to be free and live happily after getting married to Carter, hence the long road to freedom.
It was a long hard, challenging journey before Ada was able to find herself.
Q. What impact do you think the book will have on the readers?
A. The message here is that in every hard situation there’s hope.
This book will help to create a clear picture of what slavery is.
Slavery continues today and harms people in every country in the world like there were reports of slavery in Libya in December last year.
Women forced into prostitution, people forced to work in agriculture, domestic work and factories.
Q. Who is your target audience?
A. This book does not have any specific audience.
Anyone who can read is my target. The book is sold for P150.
Q. Now back to athletics, when did you discover your talent?
A. In 2007 when I was at Dukwi Junior Secondary School I joined athletics team.
That same year I scooped position two in 400m Council of Schools Sports Associations of Southern Africa (COSSASA) games.
I would like to thank Coach Kerileng Mafefe because he is the one who discovered my talent and nurtured it.
He continued being my coach until I finished high school at McConnel College training with other athletes like Nijel Amos and Daniel Lagamang.
Q. What are some your highlights and lowlights in athletics?
A. When I was named Sports Person of the Year. That was a great achievement and I was very excited to be rewarded for something I am passionate about.
Last year our team made history by reaching the finals in the World Championships held in London and finished on position 7.
In 2015, our relay team made up of Seleka, Matlhaku, Moroko and I won gold with a time of 3:40:84 at the Southern Region Senior Championships held in Mauritius.
The saddest thing was that yes we won but failed to meet the World Championships qualifying time.
Q. What’s the hardest thing about being an athlete from Botswana?
A. Honestly it is very difficult. It is always hard to get funds to help prepare for the games since we do not have high performance centres.
Botswana National Committee helps especially when we prepare for the qualifiers.
An athlete should have consistent proper training and prepare for the games as early as possible, which is not always the case with local athletes.
Q. What do you think needs to be done to improve the situation?
A. BNSC and BNOC should help us get sponsors and ensure that we train well, stay in a good conditions and eat healthy.
We need a psychologist to help prepare us mentally for the games.
When we travel to compete in international games, we need a dietitian to monitor what we eat and we need a team a doctor too.
Q. What does it take for one to be the best athlete?
A. Discipline and paying attention to your coach’s instructions.
An athlete needs to be dedicated, passionate and hardworking to achieve his or her goals.
Discipline is key. Be focused at all times.
Q. What is one thing you enjoy most on the track field?
A. I enjoy it when I compete with best athletes and when fans cheer us.
Most of Batswana used to support football, neglecting other sports codes but now we see a lot of interest in athletics because we are winning.
Q. Who is your inspiration?
A. There are two women that I look up to, Amantle Montsho and Lashinda Demus.
They both have an outstanding athletics career.
Montsho is my mentor and she has always encouraged me to work hard.
Working with her in the relay team motivated me to do my best in order achieve what she did or even more.
Demus is an American hurdler who specializes in the 400-meter hurdles and she won the Olympics Silver Medal.
Q. Which major games for the year 2018 are you preparing for and what is your target?
A. I am actually taking a break this season to work on my fitness.
I am currently working with Sports Edge Academy.
We do boot camps, personal training, team building, health and wellness and many more fitness programmes.
Q. There has been cases of doping among our local athletes, what advice can you give other athletes before they find themselves in a similar situation?
A. Read, understand and ask your coach if you do not understand before ingesting something.
It is sad because every time there is such a case, what comes into people’s minds are drugs.
A prohibited substance can be found in your medication, which why it is important for athletes to have a national team doctor to provide second opinion.
Doping is a sensitive issue and you can actually do it every day unawares.
What I do is always going through IAAF list of prohibited substance updates on their website.
You also have to be disciplined, play clean sport, and don’t do drugs.
Q. Thank God it’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?
A. For the past weeks I have been working on my next book so this weekend I want to take a break.
I will just be chilling at home and updating my diary for the coming week.