BOTSWANA ATHLETICS CAN BE A SUCCESSFUL MAJOR SPORT

BY:Botho Nthokwane

Does Botswana really need an angel from GOD to come and show her, her potential in athletics especially in field and track events. Botswana athletics should definitely be our bet to be the most successful major sport.

TALKING POINTS

  • Potential of Botswana Athletics to be our major sport
  • The importance of Grassroots development to unearth talent
  • Role of the Ministry of Sports in empowering Athletics

Athletics is one of the best sports in Botswana that has been able to produce, not only the continental champions, but rather, the world champions such as Amantle Montsho. Botswana has been able to produce some of the world’s fastest men and women.

Botswana athletics’ dominance in track events is broadly growing deep, especially in the male side. One would say it started emerging about two decades ago when Glody Dube, one of the Botswana’s celebrated athletes, qualified for the 2000, and 2004 Olympic games. This on its own was rare and unprecedented in the history of Botswana athletics as the first Motswana to qualify for the Olympics finals.

But what did Botswana do? How do they do it? Just as an interesting tid- bit, a vast majority of people have opined that one of the reasons why Kenyans and other athletes from North Africa consistently do better in track events, especially long distances/races, is because they train under the conditions where there is limited exposure to oxygen as compared to the Southern part of Africa.

Botswana athletics long celebrated female athletes, Amantle Montsho, Nigel Amos, and Isaac Makwala erupted into the world scene of athletics and outstandingly dominated the world. It is neither rocket science nor genetic that these athletes took the world by the storm and outperformed other athletes which was uncommon in our country.

In spite of the limited resources that we have as a sport code, we have tremendously done well in athletics, and defeated many countries known to be the powerhouses in athletics.

BOTSWANA ATHLETICS GRASSROOTS

The secret is that the Botswana Government, through the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports, and Culture Development, has identified some senior schools as centres for sport excellence where award-winning athletes are incubated and developed from a young age. I believe this is one of the most tactical masterstrokes ever pulled by our government in sports development.

By the time I went to high school at Good hope Senior in 2014, the school was identified as a centre of excellence for track events. Amongst us were fellow students, Baboloki Thebe, Karabo Sibanda, Karabo Mothibi, Galefele Moroko and other students who went to Good Hope Senior on the basis of their talents. Good Hope Senior was ostensibly doing well in track and field and was popularly known by the other senior schools to be fierce on the tracks.

But the institution is only part of the answer. These efforts succeeded because of an abundance of very healthy and young people — the result not of only coupling these young athletes together, as some have baselessly claimed, but of the extraordinary success of an incredible coaching and parent-ship of Mogomotsi Otsetswe.

As far as I know, this big project started with us when we enrolled at Good Hope Senior. This project emphasized maintenance of positive attitude, high level of motivation, good training programmes for the athletes, equipment and facilities.

The result that we see and celebrate today as the nation is the Botswana paradox: Baboloki Thebe, Galefele Moroko, Karabo Mothibi, Karabo Sibanda. All these athletes have been dominating athletics, not only locally but also, internationally. It is not accident that Botswana has been doing tremendously well in 400 metres and 4×400 metres relay.

Botswana has, of course, also creatively exploited its relations with countries like Kenya and Jamaica. Some of our best runners like Nigel Amos, and Karabo Sibanda have went to train there. Kenya is said to have a low level of oxygen which advantages them when they run with other athletes where there is high level of oxygen.

The remarkable success of Botswana in building a secondary school that produces globally dominant athletes is a positive story, but it raises another question: Why does it look like we are now failing do develop those succeeding the current athletes like Karabo Sibanda, and Baboloki Thebe?

The answer is complex and incomplete. But it might lie in a deeper truth about our priorities and foresight. Political and economic successes are often at the top. We rely more on leadership to lead us and manage these institutions. Things like sports success are largely top-bottom.

Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports, and Culture Development is under the stewardship of Tumiso Chillyboy Rakgare whom we have known as a sports person and from the point of departure as a minister, we thought he was the leader to take us forward in sports national development.

To our disappointment, the youthful minister has proved to lack talent and creativity, energy and self-reliance in aggressively moving this initiative forward. The future looks bleak.

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