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.
The Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) will be sending a team of five athletes to the IAAF World Cross Country Championships scheduled for Denmark next week. The team which is currently on camp include some of the finest half marathon runners in the country comprising of three men and two women.
The men’s team includes Rapula Diphoko (Diacore), Sesebo Sbula Matlapeng (Diacore) and Tlholego Keitshokile (Mmadinare Athletics Club). Only two women including Mema Tiango (Diacore) and Mosadikwena Maitumelo Gotswakgosi (Diacore) will form part of the team. In an interview this week BAA spokesperson Ipolokeng Ramatshaba said the team is currently on camp in anticipation of the world championships. “The team was selected at the end of the Cross-Country finals which were held in Palapye last month,” he said.
The BAA mouthpiece said the local team will be making a return to the world championships after being absent for a number of years. “Botswana only competed at the IAAF Cross Country world championships held in Uganda last year. This competition provides local athletes with an opportunity to win prize money that ranges between P80 000 and P300 000).”
According to Ramatshaba members of the team have used the BAA Cross Country Series that runs from November until February to prepare for the international showpiece. He further explained that the race will feature the 10 km cross country format currently used in Botswana. “We have been given a quota for one male and one female athlete, which mean we will be paying flight tickets for the rest of the team.”
Ramatshaba said other teams like Kenya were given more slots because of their recent performance at the IAAF event. “If we give an impressive performance at the race, our quota is likely to be improved.” According to Ramatshaba the international event will be expected to help local athletes as they will be embarking on other high-profile events like the Diacore Gaborone Marathon (DGM) which is scheduled for May. Meanwhile, Ramatshaba said the team will be travelling without a coach because of financial constraints. Brian Mosweu is expected to travel with the team as manager.
The President of Botswana Athletics Association (BAA), Thari Mooketsi might contest for presidency again during the BAA elective Annual General Meeting (AGM) billed for later this year. BG Sport has been reliably informed by BAA affiliates that Mooketsi together with other members of the BAA executive committee are repositioning themselves well to retain their titles. It is alleged that they are busy with their campaign strategies and begging the support of close friends and affiliates during the elections.
“He came to us saying he will be seeking another term this year and we are shocked because initially it was said that he had no interest in running as president,” said the source that preferred anonymity. Mooketsi took over the reins at BAA on April 2017. At the time of ascending to presidency two years back, Mooketsi was faced with a mammoth task of restoring sanity to BAA. The Association was at the time engrossed in internal fighting.
Mooketsi’s return came as a shock to some given that he had served as BAA president previously. However he was ousted by a number of no confidence motions. It remains questionable as to whether the confidence has been restored on the president and if he will be able to captain the ship better unlike before. From a distance, it appears that not much has changed; the Association is still struggling financially despite being the best performing code locally.
BAA is finding it hard to secure even a single sponsorship. Moreover, there are still noticeable divisions within the Association; the Mooketsi led committee has on some occasions been labelled as difficult by affiliates. Even athletes have on many occasions decried that their welfare was compromised and even accused BAA of neglecting their needs. When reached, Mooketsi played his cards close to his chest saying that he was still undecided, “I have so many things to deal with at the moment and I have not really given it much thought,” he said in between giggles.
Mooketsi noted that the BAA presidency is not something to take lightly as he needs to reassess what he has achieved and what he will offer if he is to remain in power. He explained that at the moment he is looking forward to the Ordinary General Meeting (OGM) to be held in February. At the meeting the expectation is that affiliates will approve of the drafted rules and regulations meant to guide the association. For his part, the president of the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) Moses Bantsi said that he was not one to judge who is better placed to lead BAA. “All I can do is to support and work with any administration that is elected into power,” he said.
He said it was not easy to be in leadership positions and instead of criticizing all should come together to ensure that the Association mandate moves forward. “I am impressed by the athletes' consistency, they have been representing the country well out there despite the financial difficulties of the association,” Bantsi said. The CAA president went on to say that it becomes difficult to achieve set mandates without financial resources, saying even during his time as BAA president, there were certain things he wanted to achieve but could not.
He gave BAA a pat on the shoulder for seeing to it that IAAF president came to Botswana, for the very first time. Coe was in Botswana two months back.
The Cross-Country running event that will be held in Gaborone this coming Saturday is anticipated to prepare and qualify local athletes for major upcoming events such as the World Cross-Country Championships and Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) National Finals.
This was confirmed this week by the Sports View Runners Club Chairperson, Glody Dube who are billed with hosting this year’s event after hosting the previous edition. Cross-Country running involves running a race on an open air-course over natural terrain such as dirt or grass.According to Dube, they are excited to have been preferred to host this year’s event, “We are always amongst the top list of nominees to host this occasion each and every year,” he said.
Furthermore, Dube reiterated that the Cross-Country running event is meant to aid athletes to qualify for major tournaments. “Cross-Country events are one of the easiest occasions for athletes to qualify as they are not normally judged by specific time because they compete in different environments such as dirt and grass. However, if an athlete performs well in the Cross-Country series, he or she automatically qualifies to represent the country at the World Cross-Country Championships which are scheduled to take place on the 30th March this year in Aarhus, Denmark,” said Dube.
Categories that will be available on the day include 10 Kilometres (KM) Senior Men & Women, 8KM Junior Boys, 6KM Youths Boys & Junior Girls and lastly 4KM for Youths Girls.Nevertheless, Dube said the athlete’s fitness level might prove crucial, “We are just fresh from a Christmas break, and most athletes have been engaged with all sorts of activities at their respective home villages thus it will require a lot of effort to return back to their shapes,” said the Chairperson.
On the other hand, local defending Cross-Country Champion Rapula Diphoko said it is only the beginning of the year and he just started his training, “I have just returned from off-season, and I am going to take the coming Cross-Country as my fitness builder so that I come back to my best for the second Cross-Country series which is slated for February and subsequently start to impose competition as I want to qualify for the World Cross-Country Championship in March,” said Diphoko.
Quizzed about his goals for 2019, the ambitious runner said he wants to qualify for every tournament that is on offer this year, “Honestly, this year I intend to focus only on the track in preparation for the World Championships and other major tournaments and I have to work and train hard. And most essentially, to work towards beating my personal best,” he said. The event is expected to take place on Saturday 12th at 10am in front of Gaborone Technical College (GTC) and the registration fee for every athlete is P20.00.
Former International 800m star Glody Dube believes that the alteration of the qualifying times for the 2019 IAAF World Championships which will be held in Doha, Qatar will not affect local athletes but rather give them a better chance of qualifying to these impending major events.
This year’s IAAF World Championships qualifying standards have been made slightly different from that of 2017 in London, England. Both marathon marks are faster-from 2:19:00 to 2:16:00 for the men’s event and from 2:45:00 to 2:37:00 for the women’s. As for short races; 100m- from 11:26 to 11:24 for the women and from 10:12 to 10:10 for the men’s event, in 200m- 23:10 to 23:02 for the women and from 20:44 to 20:40 for the men’s. Moreover, in 400m- from 52:10 to 51:80 for the women and from 45:50 to 45:30 for the men’s and 800m- from 2:01.00 to 2:00.60 for the women and from 1:45.90 to 1:45.80 just to mention a few.
Dube told BG Sport this week that, these sudden changes (times) will only act as a motivating tool for local athletes to perform well, “Our athletes are bound to perform to their utmost best as they will be influenced by the changed times. I expect massive performances from our local athletes. I do not see anything wrong with these changes thus are a welcoming development to our sport”.
On the other hand, one of the local prestigious marathon runner Rapula Diphoko said he only heard rumours about the new qualifying standards, “I just resumed training, trying to bring myself back to shape and I heard hearsays about these developments. I am yet to see them so that I can be able to appreciate them better as well. My ambition is to qualify for the World Championships regardless of the time changes, and I am going to work really hard to achieve my desired goals,” said Diphoko.
Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) President Thari Mooketsi said the qualifying standards for the World Championships are not bad, “The changes are not bad at all, and it will just depend on every individual (athletes) to pull up their socks and eventually qualify for the Championships. Furthermore, the World Championships are scheduled for September which provides us with ample time to prepare and do better, come the day,” said Mooketsi.
BAA President further said they (Association) are aiming high for this year’s IAAF World Championships, “In most cases for the national team, we always target for 14 to qualify but now we are aiming 20 because there are some few individuals that have emerged from the shadows. For instance, there is one from long jump and the others for relay (4x1) that we hope will add on to 14 to make it 20,” he said.The 2019 IAAF World Championships which are billed to be hosted in Doha, Qatar will take place in September 28th until the October 6th.
The new announcement by the International Association Athletics Federation (IAAF) to ban female athletes who have a Difference of Sexual Development (DSD) or naturally high natural testosterone levels from competing in events such as the 400m, hurdles, 800m and 1500m has sent shockwaves through the international track and field community. The Botswana Athletics Association (BAA), who affiliate to the IAAF are unlikely to be spared.
News about the new IAAF ruling broke last week and since then, stakeholders have been pointing fingers at the IAAF leadership and accusing it of discrimination and wanting to eliminate or slow down the performance of certain athletes. So dire is the situation that one reputable sports lawyer from South Africa recently resigned from the IAAF committee over allegations that the law was deliberately attacking one of their own, being elite middle-distance runner Caster Semenya.
According to a report from IAAF, the new regulation is meant to create an even playing field for all female athletes. Any athlete whose testosterone level is above the ‘normal’ level of 5 nmol/L should reduce their blood testosterone level for a continuous period of at least six months possibly through the use of hormonal contraceptives. According to the IAAF press document, the concerned athletes are seen as having an unfair advantage over those referred to as average women. However, athletes who do not wish to lower their testosterone levels will still be eligible to compete at competitions that are not international but can also compete in the male classification at all competitions.
In an interview with BG Sport this week, the president of the Confederation of Athletics Africa (CAA) also former Botswana Athletics Association(BAA) Moses Bantsi said they are baffled by the new developments. He said as Southern Africa they feel the new law is questionable to some extent and it is not wrong to conclude that as suspected certain individuals might be targeted.
As CAA, Bantsi said they are very blunt with their take on the matter and still pounding on the matter. “It is a violation of human rights because those athletes were not self made but naturally born that way. IAAF tried to bring about this law about four years back, now it has resurfaced again, we will see how best to deal with it,” Bantsi said.
Bantsi questioned the reason behind IAAF discriminating events, “Why are they banned from middle distance events not the other 44 track and field events. This raises a lot of eyebrows on our part,” he said.
The rule he said is most likely to be expensive for BAA because they will be forced to buy equipment that will be used to test the level of testosterone in athletes. In his opinion, the equipment might not come cheap and also this might have a negative implication on some local athletes.
For his part, BAA president Thari Mooketsi, said there is nothing wrong with the new law, in fact he feels it is a move in the right direction. Mooketsi said it is not fair that an athlete should have an added advantage over others when competing saying the results will not be fair.
“As much as we want to celebrate good results they should be fair, we are not discriminating anybody because we have categories in athletics and that is why we have people living with disabilities racing alone,” Mooketsi said.
Mooketsi said the only unfortunate part about it is that athletes with high testosterone levels will not be able to compete because there are a limited number of them. Commenting on the matter, Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) Chief Executive Officer Tuelo Serufho said as BNOC they are yet to find a stand on the matter, however in his opinion the matter is a bit tricky to handle.
Serufho said it should be noted that the athletes did not dope or have done anything to enhance their performance but were born like that so it might be unfair on them. On the other hand, Serufho felt that it was still unfair on those women who are considered to be average. “It is a delicate issue and needs delicate balancing.”
One controversial gender debacle that once hit local athletics was that of former Paralympic sprinter Tshotego Morama. After making being established as a star runner Morama faded from the athletics scene some years back. Reasons for cutting his career short are still unknown, however some allege that it was because of his gender struggle, after being viewed be a man competing with female athletes. Morama who now identifies himself as a man won gold at the 2004 summer Paralympics; in 2007 he scooped gold at the all Africa games. The President Paralympics Association of Botswana of David Moatshe said he could not discuss Morama’s case and why he decided to stay away from running, however going into the future, the IAAF new law is most likely to disadvantage and kill careers.
“We do not choose how we are born and for this to happen to any athlete might be discouraging to them,” he said.
Nevertheless, Sports View Runners Club founder Glody Dube said people should relax because the IAAF has a point in bringing the new law. Dube said it is only fair that people compete fairly and those who have added advantage should compete alone. The former 800m runner said it is not like they are being banned from running and there is no need to be press panic buttons. As a coach to some elite athletes in Botswana, Dube said should IAAF find that some local runners have high levels of testosterone in their body he will not mind if they are banned.
Dube said people are usually reluctant to change and with time there might be change of mindset because people are usually slow to react to such matters.
The Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development Thapelo Olopeng has called on Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) and all other stakeholders to start preparing for the 2018 Commonwealth games scheduled for Australia.
Olopeng was speaking during the Team Botswana welcome ceremony in Gaborone earlier this week. Team Botswana arrived back home from the IAAF World championships in London on Tuesday afternoon where they failed to secure a single medal from the international showpiece.
Despite the controversy that surrounded the team in London, Olopeng advised that all should be forgotten and all the energy should be diverted to ensuring that the team is ready to compete in Australia next year. The minister assured that the government and his ministry will be up on their toes to ensure that the athletes receive all the necessary assistance to see Botswana rise to the top. “We have to first act professionally if we want to see the results, we should start preparing as early as now,” the minister said.
Olopeng further gave the athletes a pat on the back for representing the country well despite the emotional turmoil they had to endure while thousands of miles away from home. He urged Team Botswana not to be discouraged but rather soldier on. On behalf of the team, 400m runner Onkabetse Nkobolo said they prepared well ahead of the event in Cardiff before proceeding to the world championships. He explained that during the Makwala controversy, they were forced to stick together and lean on each other’s shoulders. “It was a difficult time for us, our hearts were bleeding nevertheless I urge you all that we bury the hatchet and focus on the future, as we leave this place today let us think about the Commonwealth games,” Nkobolo said.
The young athlete also pleaded with Batswana to stop criticizing them whenever they fail to reach their expectations, as they need a strong support system in order to prevail under difficult circumstances.He congratulated the ladies relay team, noting that they outdid themselves and in the process silenced critics. “Many, including myself had little confidence in our women’s team but they reached the finals and we failed,” he said.