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Local tennis team comes short

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Botswana national junior tennis team coach Kagiso Kelebeile this week expressed satisfaction over his team’s performance during the recent African Junior tennis zonal championships held in Gaborone. The weeklong Southern African regional championships, concluded earlier this week. The tournament was used as a qualifier for the African junior championships finals scheduled for March in Tunisia.

Botswana was represented by a total of 24 junior players in the Under 14 & 16 categories. In an interview with Sun Sports this week, Kelebeile said despite his team getting knocked out in the preliminary rounds of the tournament, the players put up a fight against tough opposition from other Southern African nations. “The results and the match scores do not explain the determination our players held to win throughout the tournament.

Most of the matches were ending in deciding sets because our players were putting up a fight at all times,” Kelebeile said. In addition, Kelebeile said they fell short of wins in the team event after the girl’s under 16 team of Tshegofatso Tsiang and Anele Maplanka made it all the way to the semi-finals after ousting Lesotho in a clean sweep of singles and doubles matches. “Tshegofatso and Anele played a beautiful tournament their encounter with Lesotho and their playing styles was proof that local kids are as talented as rival countries,” he said. According to Kelebeile, the tennis team has the right tools to play and compete against the big guns in the tennis fraternity. What holds them back is lack of quality competition in local shores.

“Our kids play less than ten tournaments in a year whereas their opponents from South Africa and the likes of Mauritius compete in close to thirty tennis tournaments in a year and that automatically gives them an upper hand over our kids,” he said. “The kids are always willing to learn and play more matches but the resources such as funds for tennis tournaments are limiting their ambitions to reach their true potential.” Kelebeile argued that another contributing factor to their decline is commitment of local athletes to other things besides tennis.

“We have kids going to school for eight hours or more and only coming for training for less than three hours. This alone needs to be looked since kids that possess a certain level of skill in sports should be accorded the same opportunity to develop it just like at school,” he said. Kelebeile added that he will go back to the drawing board together with his technical team to prepare as early as now for the next championships to be hosted by the International tennis federation in April where players aged under 18 will be allowed an opportunity to represent the country.

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Local boxers ready for regional tourney

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CONFIDENT: Newly unveiled LOC is confident that the regional tourney will be a success

Botswana Boxing Association (BoBA) this past Tuesday officially unveiled a Local Organising Committee (LOC) that has been tasked with preparing for the upcoming Zone 4 championships that are to be held in Botswana.

The team is headed by celebrated boxing legend France Mabiletsa and is expected to host more than seven countries that are expected to descend in Botswana in the next two weeks. Officiating at the event, Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) Vice Chairperson Tsoseletso Magang said that BoBA officials should refrain from interfering with the task given to the LOC. She noted that many sporting codes often give the LOC the responsibility of delivering an event only for the code members to bully themselves into the affairs of the LOC and disrupts the preparations.

Magang warned that there is little time left before the tournament, and with that, the LOC will need all the support to ensure they deliver a successful event. She noted that hosting the regional tournament gave Botswana an upper hand of fielding more athletes that will have an opportunity to qualify for the Africa Championships scheduled for later this year.

For his part, Mabiletsa noted that they have already hit the ground running and confident that the event will be a success. The competition will be hosted in Botho College and they are in talks with Ave Maria to accommodate athletes. “Life will be made much easier for athletes if they are accommodated at Ave Maria because it is closer to the competition venue,” he said.

He explained that the zone is made up of 12 countries of Lesotho, Angola, Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe among others. However as of this past Tuesday, only seven had confirmed participation and they expect to finalize the logistics by the end of the week.

Meanwhile, a formidable national boxing team of eight men captained by Mmusie Tswiiige (60kg) and three ladies led by Lethabo Modukanele (48kg) will represent the country at the regional tournament.

According to the Head coach Lechedzani ‘Master’ Luza, the team has been on camp for the past three weeks. In his opinion, the team is ready to compete. “Generally, they are not bad, we need to work on a few things such as power and speed on some boxers, the defence department is also not bad,” he said.

Luza noted that Botswana has always established herself as a powerhouse and there is no doubt that majority, if not all team Botswana members will win a medal during competition time. He explained that the competition was one of the many leading to Tokyo 2020 Olympics and will give local boxers an opportunity to qualify for the Olympics.

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Branch does it again

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Local motorcycle racing sensation Ross Branch has continued his stellar form after securing overall second position in the internationally renowned Merzouga Rally. The race came to a conclusion this past weekend and Branch has proven his mettle amongst some of the best rally motorcyclists in the world.

The podium finish is expected to take the Dakar Rally racer to even greater heights in the hugely competitive and expensive sport. It has been barely two months since the talented local rider emerged as a top class racer at the Dakar Rally where he finished 13 and walked away with the fastest rookie of the 10 000 km odyssey.

At Merzouga, things seemed a little better for the rider as the terrain offer sand and rock as opposed to the treacherous dunes in Dakar. Branch who was using a different navigation system in Morocco showed his pace after winning the fourth stage of the race last week Thursday.

Prior to his podium finish Branch said Merzouga was only his second rally and he was willing to learn from some of the top riders in the sport. The KTM 450cc rider said he was now setting his sights on other major races including the 2020 Dakar Rally that has been confirmed for Saudi Arabia.

Since returning from the Dakar, Ross has stayed busy and competed at the cross-country championship in Kwazulu Natal in South Africa, where he finished fourth. The local rider is expected to compete at the upcoming 1000 km Toyota Desert Race, an event he has won more than seven times.

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