Despite a solid showing at the revamped African Elite Championships in Mozambique recently, where BW punched their way to 7th place out of 24 nations, the team’s Coach has warned much must change if Botswana boxing is to reach its full potential on the international stage.
Reflecting on a mixed five days in Maputo, Coach Thebe Setlalekgosi stressed that while the country’s haul of six medals – one gold, two silvers and three bronzes – was pleasing, and two more than their initial target, it could have been so much better.
“I am happy with the team’s performance but I think we could have done better, looking at the fact we amassed too many bronze medals which I believe could have been golds,” said Setlakgosi, speaking to Voice Sport on the sidelines of Monday’s Welcome Home ceremony for the squad.
He further predicted that as things stand, local fighters will struggle to make a mark at next year’s African Qualifiers, where winners automatically progress to the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“We have talented boxers but the problem is that most of them do not have day to day jobs which can sustain their livelihoods; some do not have access to better training facilities to sharpen their skills. They rarely find competitive opponents in order to test their match fitness when they are about to compete internationally,” explained the national team coach.
Although a date has not been set for the continental tournament, which will be held in Ghana, it is expected to take place early next year.
“It is the best chance at qualifying for the Olympics; the alternative route is the World Championships, where the competition is much stiffer,” said Setlakgosi, adding ideally preparations for the Ghana gig should start now.
Calling for the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) to dig into their pockets and give boxing a boost, he added, “If only BNSC can improve in funding us for international camps I think our athletes could be sorted and maybe perform better. Such exposure and becoming more familiar with different environments would allow them to adapt easily come competition time.”
For the country’s first ever female boxing Olympian, Keamogetse Kenosi, the rumble in Mozambique represented a timely return to form as she won Botswana’s only gold medal, securing a US$10, 000 (P130, 000) pay day in the process.
The 25-year-old overcame an exhausting 990km car journey with her teammates to triumph against DRC’s, Marcelat Sakobi in the women’s U/57kg category.
“I set my goals and achieved them because we trained well and were ready. The only problem we faced is that we had to travel to Mozambique with a car and arrived there tired and fatigued which had an impact on our performances,” revealed Kenosi, who alongside Rajab Mahommed, was one of only two boxers to make it to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Looking to follow in their footsteps, 26-year-old George Molwantwa is confident he can build on the silver he won in the Mozambique capital.
“I was physically fit and that should excite any athlete. My target was a gold medal but reaching the final is acceptable. My focus is now on the Olympics; it would be a great honour to qualify as it has always been my dream,” the big-punching pugilist told Voice Sport.
Other podium positions saw Lethabo Modukanele, 26, continue her heroics from the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, living up to her ‘Bronze Bomber’ nickname with another third-place finish.
Kobamelo Molatlhegi and Pheki Bele also fought their way to bronze (worth USD2, 500 – P33, 000) while Aratwa Kasemang narrowly missed out on the title and had to settle for silver and a cool USD 5,000 (P65, 000).