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Botswana: Pandemic Frustrates Athletes

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Maun — The impact of COVID-19 has brought sorrow and frustration to some North West District athletes who were eyeing to compete in the Under 20 World Championships billed for Nairobi, Kenya, in July.

The athletes, 100 metres sprinter Boitshepiso Kelapile and Anthony Pasela of 400 metres booked themselves tickets to Kenya during Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) competitions held in Maun and Francistown last year while Alicia Xweta and Gaolape Senyama, who were included in the provisional teams for 4×400 rely qualified at Gaborone.

The hopes of all the four athletes, who are pupils at Maun Senior Secondary School, were dashed as the pandemic affected a lot of planned activities including sports competition both locally and internationally.

In an interview, their school’s sports master, Ronald Mmipi confirmed that the athletes were a bit disappointed as they were eager to take part in major competitions such as the Under 20 World Championships.

The athletes, he said, were well prepared for the competition as they believed that it would give them an opportunity to gain exposure and market themselves.

Currently, he said, efforts were ongoing to motivate them as they always ask whether things would go back to normal or not.

“We are trying our best to counsel and motivate them to accept the COVID-19 situation as it was beyond anyone’s control. We are giving them hope that the pandemic shall pass with time,” he added.

Mmipi appreciated that the athletes continued with training on their own to keep their physical fitness. He said they were optimistic that things would normalise with time more so that some contact sport codes had returned.

North West District team manager, Tebogo Mogaetsho concurred that the pandemic had disrupted their plans dismally, noting that they were proud that some of their athletes who qualified for Under 20 World Championship would put the district in the map but that did not materialise.

“This is a drawback as we have invested a lot to prepare the athletes but we are hopeful that all is not lost and that the dates will be revised and set for the year 2021.”

He admitted that many athletes were depressed to be home, adding that efforts were made to motivate them and encourage them to be compliant to the health protocols.

Mogaetsho said most of the athletes were pupils and they were currently supporting them academically as they wanted them to balance and be focused both in academics and sports.

Even individual athletes, he said, were motivated to adjust to the new normal.

He also revealed that the pandemic had affected their plans to kick start preparations for Botswana Games billed for 2021. One of their plans, he said was to appoint a technical team by December this year but they could not carry on with the assignment because currently many people were inactive in sports.

Mogaetsho also noted that they planned to assemble a strong Under 16 team which would represent the district in Botswana Games but the efforts were in vain.

He also pointed out that plans to venture into fundraising activities had been suspended due to the pandemic. The district, he said wanted to generate funds which would be used in the preparations, noting that financial constraints was a major challenge.

North West team, he said, had been doing exceptionally well at Botswana Games as in the last year’s competition held in Gaborone, the team attained position four in overall. The district brought home 36 medals of which 11 are gold, 11 silver and 14 bronze.

Mogaetsho appreciated that the team had improved a lot especially in the sports codes such as athletics, boxing, chess and badminton and needed to work hard in swimming.

Source : BOPA

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