Seeking Gold in the land of the rising sun
A year behind schedule, the greatest sporting show on the planet finally gets underway in Tokyo, Japan this Friday.
The 32nd edition of the Olympic Games will run from 23 July to 8 August as elite athletes from around the world converge on the land of the rising sun in pursuit of gold and glory.
Amongst them will be 14 Batswana looking to forever carve their names into the annuals of history.
The team represents the most varied ever assembled by Botswana, and includes representatives across four sporting codes: swimming, boxing, athletics and weightlifting.
The bulk of Team BW landed in Yokohama – roughly 35km out of Tokyo – last Wednesday as they put the last touches to a life’s worth of work.
In her fourth and final Olympics, 400m runner Amantle Montsho-Nkape has been handed the honour of bearing the country’s flag at Friday’s opening ceremony. It is a fitting tribute to the 38-year-old former World Champion, who, one failed drugs test aside, has been a wonderful ambassador for Botswana on the global stage for over 15 years.
It is the second time the Maun-born runner has been given such responsibility in her distinguished career, having also carried the flag at London 2012.
Boxer, Mohammed Rajab Otukile will perform the prestigious duty at the closing ceremony; should he go on to enjoy half the success in the ring that Montsho has achieved on the track, he will be a very happy man!
The last to arrive in Japan was 20-year-old weightlifter Magdeline Moyengwa, who only touched down in Asia on Thursday morning.
The Shashe sensation nearly missed out on the Games after testing positive for Covid-19.
Moyengwa was not to be denied her moment in the history books, however, and after serving her ten-day isolation period was given the all clear to depart for Tokyo with her coach, Alex Rankgwe on Tuesday.
The country’s sole swimming representative, James Freeman, 20, will be the first member of Team BW to taste action.
Having qualified for the 200 and 800m freestyle events, the Gaborone-born Palapye lad is due to race at the weekend.
Giving a fascinating behind-the-scenes insight into life ‘in the bubble’, Chef de Mission, Tshepo Sitale revealed spirits are high within the camp.
He told Voice Sport the team are strictly forbidden from interacting with athletes from other countries and it is compulsory for competitors, coaches and supporting staff to test for Covid every day without fail.
“We decided to bring the team here two weeks before the events because the set-up is different and it is a bit tricky to adapt to the new normal. We make sure we are cautious because if we can have a [positive] case then the athlete will be out of the competition. We also made sure there is a psychologist to advise athletes to make sure they are able to stay focused. This is a major event and for some may be their last Olympics and they would want to sign out at a high note,” said Sitale, who was quick to thank the medical staff for their sterling work in ensuring the athletes adhere to Covid protocols.
Signalling out 2012 Silver medalist Nijel Amos, 27, for particular praise, Sitale added, “Amos came here after clocking 1:42.91 with a world leading time at the Diamond League meet in Monaco earlier this month and most athletes have been doing 44. It shows that he has been working hard in preparations for these games.”
As for Moyengwa, he revealed the young weightlifter continued training whilst in isolation after being given the all-clear from doctors.
“She did not have symptoms and was not sick. The team psychologist did a good job to make sure to keep her motivated,” he declared.
With the U/59kg athlete not due to compete until Tuesday (27 July), Sitale is confident she will have had more than enough time to adjust.
Voice Sport wish the team the best of luck. Whatever happens, you have all done the nation proud already!
Amos Nijel 800m, Scotch Loungo 4x400m Relay, Makwala Isaac 400m and 4x400m Relay, Pasela Anthony 4x400m Relay, Thebe Baboloki 4x400m Relay, Ngozi Zibane 4x400m Relay, Ndori Bayapo 4x400m Relay, Nkape-Montsho Amantle 400m, Botlogetswe Christine 400m, Moroko Galefele 400m, Kenosi Keamogetse 57kg, Mohammed Rajab Otukile 52kg, Freeman James 200 and 800m Freestyle and Moyengwa Magdeline 59kg.
Paralympic athletes are Mokgwathi Bose and Masuge Edwin