Gaborone — Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) will host National Athletics Championships at the National Stadium in Gaborone next week.
BAA vice president, Oabona Theetso, said in an interview that this year's edition was geared towards affording athletes an opportunity to prepare and qualify for major competitions such as the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, World Junior Championships and Africa Senior Championships.
He said they had also invited some SADC countries, adding that they needed at least three countries to compete in the relays to give women's 4x400, men's 4x100 and mixed relay teams an opportunity to qualify for the Tokyo Games.
"If you look at our 4x100 men's relay and 4x400 women's relay, they just need more races. I am confident about them since they exhibited potential during the recent world relay competitions," he said.
Furthermore, Theetso said they were expecting fireworks during the meet given the number of athletes invited.
"I am confident that the competition would leave a mark since most athletes would fancy to qualify on home soil," he added.
He said due to the COVID-19 regulations, entry was limited to the invited athletes only.
Athletes and team officials would not be given access to the sitting area, adding that athletes shall be ushered out of the competition area immediately after completing their races.
Botswana athletes expected to compete would include Amantle Montsho, Boitumelo Masilo, Ditiro Nzamani, Isaac Makwala, Galefele Moroko and Leungo Scotch.
Meanwhile, Sunday Standard sports editor, Botlhale Koothopile, said the COVID-19 pandemic had affected athletes' preparations for major games, adding that different sporting codes did not have a chance to host events stemming from suspension of sporting activities.
"We have also struggled to take athletes to compete outside our borders where the sport is ongoing because of travel restrictions as well as high costs involved," he said.
Therefore, Koothopile said the national championships event was a welcome development because it would give athletes who had qualified an opportunity to get much-needed practice.
He said it would also give many athletes a chance to book their tickets to the Olympics and other international competitions.
"Due to protocols put in place to curb spread of COVID-19, the number of athletes invited is limited. However, the quality of athletes invited more than compensate for that.
They have the quality needed to push our national team athletes to prepare and I will not be surprised if we can get one or two unexpected qualifications," he said.
<i>Source : BOPA</i>