The 1000 Toyota Desert Race (TDR) has become one of the most obvious sporting events to predict. If you are a betting man or woman, then you will definitely go with the Gineil De Villiers in the production car category and when it comes to two-wheeler bikes it will definitely be Ross Branch.
Local rider Ross Branch cemented his legend in Jwaneng this past weekend when he won the Desert Race for the seventh time. Ross crossed the start finish line soon after the dominant Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux piloted by De Villiers. Branch arrived to jubilant cheers and pomp as he popped a wheel to celebrate his 7th TDR victory.
Throughout the years Branch has been a perfect example of man and machine working in perfect harmony as he dominated the TDR. “It was a very long race and it was extremely hard because of the cars that made routes yesterday. The bike was well set up but this morning I had a close call with a car driven by one of the spectators. It was fun I had a lot of time in the saddle today which is good preparation for the 2019 Dakar Rally,” Branch said.
“This is a step in the right direction and look forward to Dakar.” In a post-race interview, Branch said he has competed the Desert Race in his home town Jwaneng and he is now hoping to achieve a good result at the Dakar scheduled for Peru in South America. The KTM rider said preparations for the Dakar are underway and he intended to do a lot of riding in the sandy terrain of Jwaneng, which gives him an advantage. “I want to spend a lot of time in the bike because I know the area and the sand is good for practice.
I have been working hard this year, the gaps between competing riders are small these days because my rivals are improving so I have to be focused on the race and ensure I don’t get lost and watch out for different obstacles,” he said.
“I have now won seven times in the Desert Race including three wins in Jwaneng.”Despite having a close call with a vehicle driven by spectators, Branch said local fans are fantastic and he has seen spectators along the full 500 kms in the race. You see friends from Jwaneng and back home in Gaborone. “When I am a bit down and tired, they are screaming my name it’s a real motivator.” Branch said the spectators did not come on the track and they are well behaved.
“Even after Dakar I will continue to race the TDR, I will never stop racing here as long as I have a contract with Comfort his part the KTM race team mechanic Kevin Tyrer said there is a lot to the Desert Race and Branch is a home town boy. “For the KTM team the race was extremely smooth, we had a few issues but it was an easy race for us.
The motivation on the team comes from winning and beating other manufacturers. Regarding the Dakar Tyrer said the race is what people dream of and the cost factor of competing there is extravagant to have the Dakar on your mind means you should be extremely committed. “Last year you had Vincent Crosbie who went there and he did well.”
Volleyball coach explains selection of national team
Botswana Volleyball Federation (BVF) national team coach Kabo Ntshinogang says winning a league performance award does not guarantee national team call up.
Ntshinogang was responding to complaints made by some players recently that the national team squad is decided on favoritism and not merit. To their surprise, some players that were honored for exceptional play in the 2018 Mascom league were missing from the preliminary national team list that was released by the federation recently. The national team is preparing for the All Africa games qualifiers to be held in Mozambique later this month.
“Yes it is true, not all who were honored by Mascom last year made it into the team. Winning an award does not book a seat in the national team, a lot of things go into being selected as national team material,” Ntshinogang said this week.
The coach in charge of the ladies’ team explained that in some instances, a player can score many points in one particular game while a more talented player might have been absent on the day.
That, he said could make other talented players fail to collect points and catch up, as every game is different.
“We use the league to gauge performance however, we can never all agree on who is best suited a place in the national team. Difference in opinions will always come in and perhaps provide a healthy debate,” the coach said.
Ntshinogang added that if he indeed used favoritism to pick his team then his side of Mafolofolo Club would be dominating the list. Nevertheless, Kutlwano players are the ones with a large number of players at national team level. On the men side, assistant coach Kealeboga Mmekwane said that contrary to negative reports he came across, Kesaobaka Lenkopane of BDF XI, who was the 2018 league best setter has been invited to training but has not showed up yet.
“He was omitted from the list yes but we have since contacted his coach that the player should join the national team during training,” he said. Mmekwane continued to note that another omitted name was Meffery Chindumbo who is a foreigner and could not be called for national team duty. He revealed that they look into matters such as height, skill and the defence ability when they select their preferred team.
He explained that it was hard picking names and they were forced to rely on past experiences. “There is no league and we had to think hard to come up with a competitive team,” he said. For their first training, Mmekwane noted that the players are all a bit rusty as they are returning from a long break, saying some have even gained weight. He however expressed confidence that they will qualify for the games as they have over the years established themselves as a powerhouse in the region.
Marape increases Botswana’s medal tally
Women Fide Master (WFM) Naledi Marape dazzled at the just ended Zone 4.3 championships held in Madagascar. She brought home a bronze medal.
The 2019 edition was the young Marape’s second zonal competition having finished on 5th position in Mozambique last year. Nevertheless, she emerged all hell bent to leave an impressive mark in Madagascar as she defeated highly ranked players to increase Botswana ‘s medal tally.
Marape emulated winning ways of Women International Master (WIM) Onkemetse Francis who finished in second position, grabbing a silver medal. Francis returned to the Chessboard following a short break from the game, itching to defend her 2018 bronze medal. She would however go up the ranks and give way for the developing star that is Marape.
It seems Marape drew inspiration from the experienced side of Francis and rightly put her foot down. The Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) spokesperson Kutlwano Tatolo explained that Marape is actually chasing her first Olympiad appearance next year.
“She has been doing well and one of the best youth players, however, competition is very stiff and she will need to work extra hard to improve her game,” she said. Tatolo described Marape as a player still full of energy and thirsty for success saying her level of growth in the game was promising.
However, Marape began the year on a low note and actually lost out on forming part of the ten Metropolitan Championships ladies’ finalists, thus the urge to keep busy drove her to international excellence.
The BCF had sent only one female representative to Madagascar however, Marape and another youth side in Women Candidate Master (WCM) Natalie Banda sponsored themselves to attend the zonal competition. Banda, who was making a debut at the tournament, finished in an impressive 8th position and she was given a trophy for being the youngest participant at the tournament.
Meanwhile, Fide Master (FM) Phemelo Khetho who recently won the Metropolitan championship failed to defend his 2018 silver medal in the open section but instead dropped to position 13.
His counterpart International Master (IM) Providence Oatlhotse, finished on the 6th place.
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