Gaborone — Botswana's most promising and decorated karatekas, Ofentse Bakwadi and Entle Maungwa are expected to hoist the national flag high in their quest for glory at the inaugural World Beach Games, which start today in Doha.
The first ever world beach games, which were initiated by the Association of National Olympic Committee (ANOC), are to feature 15 sporting disciplines with over 1 200 athletes from 97 countries ready for battle.
Bakwadi and Maungwa will take part in kata only, under the watchful eye of Sensei Christopher Ponatshego.
Kata is a category where athletes demonstrate choreographed sequences of karate techniques.
The prestigious tournament is a perfect opportunity for Bakwadi to demonstrate his abilities as he prepares to qualify for Tokyo 2020.
In an interview, shortly before jetting off to Doha on Wednesday, Bakwadi expressed hope of doing well in the games despite limited preparation schedule.
The two athletes qualified by virtue of being in the top four of the continental Union Federation of Africa Karate (UFAK) championships that were held in Kigali, Rwanda in 2018.
Bakwadi was crowned the African Kata Champion in 2017 in Cameroon and was beaten to the first spot by South African Michael Duplesis the following year in Rwanda, while Maungwa came on the third spot for the female category.
The 19-year-old Maungwa remains Botswana's biggest hope in the female kata against the world's best such as multiple world champion Sandra Sanchez of Spain and fellow African Sanae Agalmam of Morocco.
About eight continental champions will be among the karate kata field in the Qatari capital.
Bakwadi will face tough opposition from African champion Adnane Elhakim of Morocco and Spanish champion Damian Quintero.
Elhakim took gold in the UFAK tournament in Gaborone recently.
Some of the interesting names to look forward to include three-time world reigning champion Ryo Kiyuna of Japan and Pan American kata sensations Maria Dimitrova and Ariel Torres of Dominican Republic and the US respectively.
Karate action will be split between Katara and Al Gharafa venues and the games are expected to be officially opened by Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the current Emir of Qatar.
Meanwhile, the Qatari capital once again becomes a beehive of activities just days after the close of the IAAF world athletics championships.