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Volleyball women prepare for Rio



Botswana women’s volleyball team has been in training camp over the past week as it prepares for a grueling African Olympic Qualifier tournament to be played in Cameroon next month. A squad of about 18 players from four different league teams was assembled for the training routine that takes place every morning and evening at the Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC) Hall.

As usual from over the past decades, top clubs Kutlwano and Mafolofolo with five players each dominate the number of call-ups with Kalavango and Dynamites each contributing three players. Tracy Chaba who has been playing for Abu Dhabi’s Al Wadha Volleyball Club also adds to the team that will eventually be trimmed to 12 players.

Botswana Volleyball Federation’s (BVF) Sports Development Officer Peaceful Seleka – who recently released the list of players called to camp – told Sun Sports this week that there could be changes in personnel as doubts still linger on the availability of some players for varied reasons.

Seleka himself has been working with the team on the interim as the BVF awaits the release of appointed coaches who are yet to report for camp. The team’s head coach Manuel Torres is expected to arrive this week from Cuba while it is not clear when his assistants Kabo Ntshinogang and Gareanna Makgetha will be available as they still have to be released by their respective employers.

The Olympic qualifiers’ tournament for Africa is set to begin on February 15 and will run until February 19 in Cameroon’s capital of Yaounde where the ultimate winner will gain automatic qualification for the Rio showpiece. Teams finishing in second and third places will have another chance to proceed to Brazil  through participation at a second World Qualification Tournament that will include countries from all participating continents.

Each continent will have a single automatic qualifier from winning their respective continental qualifier tournaments, with the five continental winners joining hosts Brazil as well as China who qualify by virtue of being 2015 FIVB Women’s World Cup winners. Another team that has already qualified is Serbia who gained the automatic slot after emerging runners up at last year’s Women’s World Cup in Japan.

Continental qualifiers for Europe, North America and South America were decided at their tournaments that concluded over the past weekend – with Russia, USA and Argentina emerging winners for the said continents respectively. In all, a total of 12 teams will compete at the Rio games and only six slots are yet to be filled.

Only Asia and Africa are yet to decide their automatic qualifying countries. The remaining four places will then be fought for by runners up and third-place finishers from the continents at the World Olympic Qualification Tournament set for the period between May 14 and June 5.

At the Cameroon tournament, Botswana will find other sixteen nations lying in wait, among them traditional powerhouses Tunisia, Kenya, Egypt, Algeria and the hosts. Other nations include Nigeria, Ghana, Cape Verde, Uganda, Mozambique, Gabon and Burkina Faso.

The last two automatic qualification spots for Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympics were snatched by Algeria. It thus remains to be seen how the Botswana women will negotiate their way past these giants of African volleyball after years of playing second fiddle. But the local team’s captain Tebogo Sejewe has expressed confidence in her team’s readiness, saying most in the camp are experienced players who finished in the top four at the All Africa Games last year.

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Local boxers ready for regional tourney



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



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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