The Gaborone International Meet (GIM) line up stands to be further weakened should some of the local top athletes compete at the Penn Relays scheduled for April 25 to 27 in the United States. This is the same period that the GIM will be hosting the 2019 edition of the local meet.
This week, Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) Vice President Kenneth Kikwe confirmed that they have already submitted a list of the 4x400m men’s relay team that will compete at the Penn Relays. Kikwe named a five-men squad of Baboloki Thebe, Boitumelo Masilo, Leaname Maotoanong, Onkabetse Nkobolo and Nigel Amos as the team that will compete at the Penn Relays. Coach Justice Dipeba has been assigned to lead the team as coach. He noted that only Isaac Makwala has declined the invitation preferring to participate at the local event of GIM.
Quizzed on why BAA would prefer to withdraw athletes from GIM with only two weeks left to the event, Kikwe explained that the turnout of events left them between a rock and a hard place. A decision he said had to be reached even though it would probably rub some the wrong way.
“We received invitation to compete at the relays just recently and it was through our long time technical sponsor Nike; with that, after weighing all available options we felt there was need to compete at the Penn Relays,” Kikwe said. The BAA vice president noted that they could not afford to burn bridges by disobeying a plea by Nike. He explained that BAA is struggling to secure sponsorships and should they lose the confidence of Nike, they will be back to a very hard and lonely place.
He noted that they have nothing against GIM and actually re-negotiated with Nike as they (Nike), wanted Botswana to send the entire national team to the United States. “At first they requested we send a team of both the 4x100m and 4x400m including the ladies side to the competition however we explained of the clash and discussed until they obliged,” he said.
Kikwe went on to say that not only are they pleasing Nike but they want to improve chances of the team qualifying for the Olympics by competing in more international competitions. Botswana has not participated in the Penn Relays since 2011 and Kikwe believes that the competition will be used to prepare for the 2019 World Relays to be held in Japan next month.
The 2019 edition of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Relays will serve as a qualifier for the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships scheduled for Doha and the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. “We really have to improve our chances of qualifying for the Olympics and be ranked and that can only be achieved if we compete in many relay competitions,” he said.
He further admitted that the organizers of GIM are not impressed with the outcome of the events and somehow might feel that BAA is not playing fair. The founder of the meet, Glody Dube when reached said that BAA confirmed in a meeting that the athletes would not be available at the meet. Nevertheless, some athletes he said have approached him saying they do not wish to compete in the United States but were coerced by BAA.
Dube noted that he is just waiting to see what will happen, “With the BAA announcement, this means that should the athletes not leave for the Penn Relays and wish to run at GIM, there will be no appearance fees secured for them and it would be unfair on the athletes,” he explained. He added that he has written a letter to Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) seeking intervention on the matter. BNSC, he said is yet to respond to the matter.