Botswana Karate Association President, Tshepo Bathai admits that Karatekas from Arab countries were once again a pain in the neck for local athletes during the just ended UFAK championships staged in Gaborone, Botswana.
After the competition, Botswana was ranked 8th with no gold medal, two silver and 11 bronze medals. Egypt came 1st garnering 11 gold, six silver and six bronze medals. Bathai explained that despite the rankings, local athletes did well and it is clear that there has been significant improvement on team performance since 2017. “We maintained our two silver medals and upped the tally in the bronze side, I would say the team is doing well,” he said.
On the other hand, Botswana’s Kata King Ofentse Bakwadi, who scooped a silver last year in Rwanda could only hang unto the bronze medal coming into 2019. He did not hold back when speaking to this publication but pointed that less was done to prepare the local team for the event. He explained that competitors from Morocco and Algeria are constantly in training camps and it helps the athletes greatly when competing.
He argued that they have to attend at least one training camp and two high level championships to prepare well for the competition. Having won gold in 2017, Bakwadi believes that there is nothing stopping him to repeat history but only if BOKA supports them. The sensational Bakwadi recalled that he only managed to win gold in 2017 after he single handedly funded his own training camp in Hong Kong that lasted for two and a half weeks.
“This proves that with more exposure we can be a dangerous team, I want to qualify for the Olympics next year and if I do not get support, the dream will be destroyed. I have high hopes though because the Minister of Sports, Tshekedi Khama has assured us of support,” he said. Bathai agreed with Bakwadi that preparations for the event might have affected performance. Funds were only availed in mid -June and nothing much could be done as the competition days were fast approaching. “We did the best we could under the circumstances, the team went to Bloemfontein, South Africa for a week and though it was not enough, we are impressed with the overall result,” Bathai said.
Another star athlete in Thato Malunga who also formed part of the senior female team Kumite told BG Sport that the 2019 edition was the saddest of her career. “I did not get a medal and it is my first time not placing any medal at an African karate championship, however, I believe that I can bounce back next time,” Malunga said briefly this week. Botswana ‘s only two silver medals came from Kumite in the junior team of Oratile Monametsi under 53kg and Dimpho Andy under 68kg.