Gaborone — Botswana Cycling Association (BCA) newly reinstated president, Mmetla Masire says his ambition is to professionalise cycling in his next three year tenure.
In an interview with Masire recently, the president said his focus would be pushing for the sport to be professional.
"The shift now is to have an effective strategy to create a base for professionalism; the quality of races, the qualifications of the officials from race directors, commissioners and many roles in cycling races."
Also of more importance, Masire said, was the need to have local race events recognised as ranking events.
As with other sporting codes which are able to attract elite athletes to the country for points collection, Masire said similarly with cycling they also need to have local events that would allow top cyclists to accumulate points in Botswana.
"But our events will not be recognised as point events until we have satisfied certain quality standards and levels of officials," emphasised Masire.
Another key focus for Masire in the three years he has is development. He maintained that an athlete could only become professional if groomed into one.
Masire admitted to have not focused on development riders in the past term due to budgetary constraints and lack of parents' involvement.
The BCA head said their strategy and plan now was to involve more parents.
"Cycling works best if parents are involved because of the safety nature, especially with children involved," noted Masire, adding that they have been focusing on getting more adults into the sport and involving them to assist in managing children, especially in road races.
Masire appealed to parents and adults to come forth and assist not only parents who were cyclists, but even those who had interest in the sport and were willing to assist in development.
While Botswana Integrated Sports Association (BISA) supports most sporting codes in terms of athletes' development this has proved to be a mammoth task with cycling.
Masire said the challenge with cycling to engage BISA was that the sport was expensive and complex in terms of the basic equipment needed as well as proper storage of equipment.
"We are not very far and we would really like to penetrate schools," noted Masire.
He said they have already started with the likes of SOS and few others where they were utilising their bicycles.
He said they have started engaging concerned stakeholders, and hope government would at some stage find enough funds to cover the basic requirements of cycling.
"It is a challenge because bicycles on their own need proper maintenance which need the right people at schools to take that role."
Masire indicated that cycling clubs also needed to start organising races to the point level and accredit so that they could attract international riders. He said last year BCA accredited the National MTB Championships.
"It was a UCI accredited point race although it took a lot of hard work to reach that standard. I encourage clubs to follow and realise that it is possible."
He said club races should not only attract international riders for money but also points.
"Not every cyclist is after money as some use the races to gain points to qualify for international events like the Olympics and World Championships."
Botswana recently participated at the Africa Games in Morocco and BCA sent three riders, Gontse Molefe, Abeng Malete and Bakang Ebudilwe.
Masire said the trio did well as they managed to sprint finish with the bunch compared to previous years when they were mostly lapped.
He said the men's team still required more experience to compete effectively at such levels.
"When we talk of Abeng, he is a strong athlete who requires more exposure to garner the experience for international stage, and we are optimistic about him excelling in his future endeavours."
He described Gontse as a strong athlete who has raw talent.
Source : BOPA