Gaborone — Team Botswana will not participate in the IAAF World U20 Championships which begins in Tamapere, Finland today.
Coach Chilume Ntshwarang broke the news to the team, which is made up of Botswana's future quarter-milers; Onneile Phokedi, Mooketsi Montshiwa, Ditiro Nzamani, Lee Eppie, Benard Olesitse, Bayapo Ndori and 800m runner, Tshepiso Masalela. The team has been in camp since June 23 preparing to represent the country at the World showpiece.
But due to lack of funds their dreams of emulating the likes of Baboloki Thebe, Omphemetse Poo, Thabiso Sekgopi and Karabo Sibanda who represented the country in the same competition twao years ago had been shattered.
Ministry Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development permanent secretary, Kago Ramokate said in an interview that he was aware that the team would not represent the country in Tampere.
As the ministry, he said they were aware that the competition was very important to the athletes, more so that it was age-based.
The competition, he said work as a build up for the athletes, and therefore some of them might not find yet another opportunity to compete at the IAAF World U20 Championships because age would have caught up with them.
"I had a meeting with both the Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) and Botswana Athletics Association (BAA), and I told them to always alert the ministry well in time if they face such challenges," he said.
Ramokate buttressed that communication was very important more especially on issues of national interest.
Former Botswana Athletics Association secretary, Patrick Moesi said failure to send the team to Tampere was a draw back in the development of athletics.
He said performances of junior athletes had been one of the best in many years, given that more athletes had qualified for the junior World Championships this year than in previous editions.
"This is a clear indication of the quality of the current crop of our young athletes. The future of this country is very bright if we look at the performances of our junior athletes. One can easily see that the likes of Nijel Amos and Isaac Makwala will have good replacements when they finally decide to hang their spikes," he said.Moesi said it was very important to continue to groom young athletes so as to ensure that they continue as a big player in the International athletics fraternity.
The World U20 Championships, he said were a launching pad for athletes as they were given much needed international experience due to its quality.
He said athletes understood and worked very hard to qualify for the event and had literally spent every ounce of their energies to qualify for this competition.
Furthermore, Moesi argued that exposure to high level competition, at an early age helped to build confidence, which would eventually translate to medals in future elite events. He explained that Phokedi had dipped in under the set qualifying mark about two times this year, improving his time which puts him amongst the best in the world in this event.
According to Moesi, five athletes in the 4x400m had met the qualifying standard for the 400m, something that had not happened in a very long time.
Priority, he said should be given to developing young athletes, adding that otherwise Botswana would face a bleak future as athletics transition to senior ranks would be negatively affected.
Furthermore, Moesi said BNSC had the duty to ensure that young athletes were groomed well and exposed to their age group competitions in order to prepare them for the future.