OFENTSE BAKWADI: KARATEKA CHASING HIS OLYMPIC DREAM

BY: Tirelo Mosielele

Ofentse Bakwadi is his birth name, in the karate circles he is affectionate to ‘’Shakes’’. Born 17 January 1985, younger brother to Sensei Mpho Bakwadi, the Gaborone born native who hails from Molepolole made a living and became a household name through disciplining his other compatriots and became one of the best kata in the world.

His journey was long paved back in 2000 when he was graded to black belt at 15 years, which was a major breakthrough.

Since then, the lad was focused on reaching big stages and securing his dreams; Ofentse Bakwadi is currently ranked number 30 worldwide as of January in the kata category (kata is a category where a karateka express their pattern of movements individually or in pairs, unlike in Kumite where two karateka fight) he strived very hard to get to the top despite challenges faced by our local sports which are generally lack of financing more especially in minority codes like karate.

OFENTSE BAKWADI AS A MENTOR AND SENSEI

Ofentse Bakwadi is reaching his climax as an athlete, at 35 years ambitions for coaching are already decided by most athletes, Shakes passion for karate had him decide to tackle both competing and dedicating some time as a Sensei (teacher) for life after retiring and also to groom next generation for karate.

There are quite a few athletes that can be mentioned who have expressed how Sensei Bakwadi has been instrumental in their journey, Centy Kgosikoma-a young female karateka who applauds Ofentse for being an inspirational figure as her sensei. Centy won bronze at the 2019 UFAK Championships in Gaborone and was part of the Karate Premier League in France. She also poses ambitions to qualify for the 2022 Commonwealth games in Birmingham, England.

Another karateka to mention is the 19-year-old Lesego Masimola who is considered already a kata specialist, Lesego also won bronze with Centy Kgosikoma at the UFAK championships last year, she also showed her appreciation for Sensei Bakwadi for his inspiration and also her international role model in Rika Usami (a Japanese, best known for her 2012 World Karate Championship victory clinching gold).

OFENTSE BAKWADI’S OLYMPIC AMBITIONS

Back in 2015, the Olympic Committee reached a unanimous decision to reinstate karate in the Summer Olympics as part of the five sporting codes that will make their debut in the grand stage, this brought hope to the almost retiring athletes such as Ofentse Bakwadi (35), his passion to the sport made him commit even more before COVID-19 interrupted everything, he featured in the Dubai Premier League to better his rankings, unfortunately, he was knocked in the first round.

He is also engaged in high-performance training worldwide to be at par with the best in karate, as Botswana has limited facilities to fully condition these athletes to an international stage, Shakes traveled to countries like Japan (karate birthplace) to engage in rigorous training with the best athletes. As alluded earlier, he needs to be among the Top 10 to find a spot in Tokyo 2021 delayed Olympics, ranking 30 now will mean he has to attend more qualifiers than before and engage in high performance training to be fully conditioned before it’s too late.

Participating in the Olympics comes with a cost since the government and the association are reluctant to fund these athletes for their competitions, Bakwadi’s dreams are bigger to be ignored just because of lack of finance, he is engaged in different fundraising activities to fund his trips, his team is selling merchandise, which he was not impressed by its sales. The other big fundraiser is a gala dinner, which he is adamant that it will be successful and help him reach his goals in participating at his only Olympics.

Ofentse Bakwadi
Ofentse Bakwadi

CHALLENGES

Ofentse Bakwadi just like many Batswana participating in sports are faced with a gruesome obstacle in capital independence ( money and resources), Botswana Karate Association is synonymous with running bankrupt thus living ambitious athletes like Shakes in an awkward situation where now he has to fund for his own trips to compete in international tournaments which are used for ranking and Olympic qualifiers, he recently self-sponsored himself for to the Karate US Open and the Premier League in Dubai, and also in 2012, he did the same thing at the All Africa Games when the Association proclaimed its bankruptcy.

The government is playing little or no role in helping these athletes with any form of support, it could be financial or in-kind, there are no proper facilities that could match the international standards to fully prepare the athletes to well compete on the grand stage and produce good results. This does not only affect Bakwadi only, every local athlete is affected by lack or inadequate infrastructure or improper training facilities, thus demoralising them and destroying their dreams t be the next Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan.

These challenges affect his participating odds, in order to qualify for the Olympics, he has to be in the Top 10 for the best kata and major tournaments around the world are made as a way of one to increase their points to have a chance at this slim chance.

SOME OF HIS ACHIEVEMENTS

Ofentse Bakwadi
Ofentse Bakwadi competing at 2015 ALL Africa Games. PC: Pressphoto

-Ofentse Bakwadi Won gold in male kata at the African Karate Senior Championships and International Hayashi-ha Championships in 2017

-He was crowned Africa senior Champion in 2017 and made history by becoming the first BLACK African kata Champion after success in UFAK Championships.

-Won gold at the African Zone VI Championships hosted in Botswana

-Numerous Awards at the local Karate Awards hosted by its Association

-Ofentse Bakwadi is a two-time BNSC Awards Sportsman of the year ahead of seasoned athletes like Isaac Makwala and Baboloki Thebe.

-Won bronze at the Karate Commonwealth Championships in Durban

-Two bronze at the UFAK Championships in kata held in Gaborone 2019

-Also won two bronze medals at the All Africa Games which were hosted in Morocco

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