The national boxing team has now proven to be the best pound for pound in pugilists Southern Africa after successfully defending their Zone IV championship in Mozambique earlier this year.
The team, consisting of five men and two women, will now face their toughest test when they head for the second qualifiers for the 2016 Rio Olympics. The qualifier games are scheduled for Yaounde, Cameroon. The team consists of some of the best amateurs in the country including power punching Lentswe Zwinila (69kg), Kabelo Bagwasi (60kg), Kagiso Bagwasi (64kg), Zibani Chikanda (75kg), Mahommed Otukile (49kg), Koketse Dipogiso (51kg) and Keamogetse Kenosi (60kg).
Before competing at the qualifiers in Yaounde, the team is expected to go on a rigorous international camp that includes Morocco, France and Uzbekistan. At the qualifiers in Cameroon, boxers who make it into the top three in their division will be selected for the final team at the Olympics. “The team started preparations with local training camps in December 2015.
During this period some local top boxers were brought into camp to assist their peers in training and the association also organised sparring sessions with boxers of local clubs in order to help the team improve its boxing skills before big competitions,” said Botswana Boxing Association (BoBA) president Dr Thato Patlakwe.
He added that the team managed to win position one at the Zone IV games in Maputo where they garnered five gold, four silver and one bronze medal. Speaking during the same occasion the Botswana Olympic Committee (BNOC) Chief Executive Officer Tuelo Serufho said his organisation was planning to send a much larger team to the 2016 Rio Olympics than the four-athlete strong team they sent to London 2012.
“I wish to state that we will only be sending quality athletes. Towards the end of 2015 we narrowed our focus to only a few sport codes, which include boxing, judo, swimming, volleyball and athletics.” However, Serufho announced that the women’s volleyball team has since failed to qualify for the Olympic Games at the recent qualifier games held in Cameroon.
“We are not going to pile any pressure on you. We are not expecting medals. We just want you to give your all. We will still accept it if you come empty handed a lot of money has been spent in preparations.”
Speaking on the sidelines of the sending off ceremony, welterweight contender Lentswe Zwinila said they were expecting most of the competition to come from North African countries including Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia.
“The North Africans are technically better than us but we beat them in terms of power and fitness.” The talented pugilist said the mood on camp was positive and they were approaching the qualifying games with confidence. Meanwhile, the women’s coach Thebe Setlalekgosi said the two women who form part of the team were ready for any challenge.
“I have great confidence in them. They previously beat other boxers from African countries and they can do it again.” Local women boxers have previously struggled to find sparring partners during training. The technical team that forms part of the delegation includes men’s coach Johannes Ditlhabang. The team will also be accompanied by Irene Ntelamo as manager.