On the backdrop of what sports minister Thapelo Olopeng and Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) chairperson Solly Reikeletseng said on Monday this week, it has emerged that national sports federations do not use the All Africa Games for qualification of their athletes and teams for the Olympic Games.
At the Monday press briefing held at the sports ministry headquarters on Monday, Olopeng and Reikeletseng dismissed as untrue that the continental games were not found attractive by top African sports stars because they give no qualification passage towards the world’s most prestigious sport festival. However, the defensive duo cited Athletics, Table Tennis, Basketball, Paralympic sport and boxing as sporting disciplines through which African sportspersons can gain Olympic Games qualification from the All Africa Games.
But some sports administrators involved at the helm of the quoted disciplines both locally and across the borders said while that may be true, they have not in the past had their athletes and teams qualify from the Africa Games. A national federation official in Kenya, a country that usually sends more numbers to the Olympics more than other African countries, revealed that by the time the All Africa Games arrive, most of their sports stars would have already qualified for the Olympics. “As I say this now, most of our athletics stars have already gained qualification for Rio, hence most have opted not to be included in Team Kenya for the games in Congo,” the Kenyan sports administrator told BG Sport via a Facebook inbox interview this week.
He further confirmed that their IAAF World Championships gold medallists were among the Kenyan stars who did not grace the event. “Kenya had seven gold medallists in China and they have opted out of the African Games. (David) Rudisha is not there for the 800m, our Javelin world champion Julius Yego is not there and all the others. But they will be at the Olympics,” he added.
He explained that in their understanding, it is the African and international sports federations that determine Olympic qualifiers through their numerous sanctioned competitions, and that the All Africa Games have not been that significant in their quest to qualify their teams and athletes. This, the sports ministry’s policy analyst Falcon Sedimo also mentioned on Monday, although for him it was as a rebuttal to the notion that only the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) was the only body that can offer qualification to the Olympics.
Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) vice president Glody Dube also argued that the All Africa Games were of little significance in terms of qualification of their athletes for the Olympics. Dube, who has also reached the Olympic finals as an athlete, said the BAA only looks at the athletes with the best times to determine their passage to the Olympic Games. He added that winning races at the African games is not a guarantee for qualification especially if they go on to post poor times afterwards. “Only the best athletes who will satisfy the association with impressive times are selected for the Olympic games,” he said.
The minister had also mentioned that Basketball at the All Africa Games was used as an Olympic qualifier, but authorities at the sport code sang a different tune. Botswana Basketball Association (BBA) spokesperson Tumelo Boima said the Games do not act as Olympic qualifiers. He instead said qualification can only be gained by competing at continental competitions like the Afro Basketball, which are played under the African Basketball Federation. Botswana Boxing Association (BoBA) president Dr Thato Patlakwe also differed with his sport superiors on boxing at the All Africa Games being used as an Olympic qualifier. “They are totally not Olympic qualifiers. We have two Olympic qualifiers including the Boxing World Champions that will be held in Qatar in October. Two of our boxers Kagiso Bagwasi and Zibani Chikanda have already qualified for the World Championships where they can qualify, not at the All Africa Games.” Patlakwe added that they have another chance to qualify for the Olympics at the African Boxing Championships that take place early next year in Cameroon.
Last week this publication questioned the significance of the All Africa Games in the current format and organisation in as far as qualification for the Olympic Games is concerned. The argument revolved around the reason why most African stars always shun the games and thus render the quality of competition poor. Most athletes and sports administrators have cited that among other anomalies regarding the games, they were not Olympic qualifiers and thus they saw no reason to strut and fret at the games. However, minister Olopeng, supported by Reikeletseng and Sedimo this Monday dismissed talk that the games are not Olympic qualifiers, citing Athletics, Basketball and Boxing as examples of codes that use the continental games as qualifiers. Reikeletseng went on to describe as “a myth,” the talk that top African athletes do not take the games seriously.
The BNSC chairman cited South African swimmer Chad le Clos, Nijel Amos and Isaac Makwala as examples of top African athletes who are there at the moment. Amos had to compete in his race with unknown competitors this week as there was no Ethiopian Mohammed Aman and Kenya’s Rudisha, the Africans that have always given him competition. Similarly, Makwala had a field day beating other unknown opponents in a race that had not South African Wayde van Niekerk, the current world 400m champion.