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Volleyball women off to Rio qualifiers

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The Botswana women’s senior national volleyball team has become a force to reckon with in the African continent. Currently, the women’s volleyball team, which is scheduled to  compete at the Rio 2016 Olympic Qualifiers in Cameroon beginning this Friday, is now rated above the likes of South Africa and other   countries in the region that used to be ranked higher.

This was revealed by the president of the Botswana Volleyball Federation (BVF) Daniel Molaodi at the team’s sending off ceremony held in Gaborone this Wednesday.

“There are seven teams that will be competing at the qualifiers and only one of the teams is rated below us. The other countries that have always troubled us in the qualifiers include Algeria, Kenya, Egypt, Morocco and the hosts Cameroon,” Molaodi said. The team left yesterday for the games that will be played until February 19.

Molaodi glorified the growth of the team over the years, attributing the growth to previous preparatory initiatives that have seen the team stay together for long. The core of the current national team, he added, previously went on a training camp in Thailand where they were preparing for the last Olympic games.  “The   dividends of that camp are now slowly paying off. If we want high performance we must be willing to invest,” he said.

The acting Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture Kago Ramokate, who officiated at the send off ceremony, heaped praise on the team he said had already made a significant achievement by being chosen to represent the country against some of the best teams in the continent.

“Your steady trajectory in the African rankings not only shows growth of women’s volleyball in Botswana, but also symbolises commitment, passion and   hunger on the part of local clubs and their athletes,” Ramokate said, adding, “I would therefore like to implore you to go to Cameroon and play the best volleyball of your lives; and trust me, whatever the result you bring, we will be more than happy provided you played to your best.”

The team’s head coach Kabo Ntshinogang expressed satisfaction that preparations for the qualifiers went according to plan. He added that he knew and understood the majority of the players in the team except the three who will be making their senior national team debut – Tshiamo Chakalisa of Kutlwano, Jestinah Moyo of Dynamites and Keba Phofedi of Kalavango.

“ But the three new players have also shown readiness for battle and we hope they will gel quickly into the team,” he said. “The crucial qualifiers feature the cream of African volleyball. Some of the teams at the competition know us well, however we are also familiar with them.

We are a bit lacking in the attack department although our strength is on par with that of the opposition. This is something we have been working on at training,” the coach added.

Meanwhile the three senior national team rookies were full of confidence that they will fit well in the team. In a brief interview on the sidelines of the send off, Tshiamo said she was ready for the daunting test ahead as this will not be the first time she faced international competition.

“I have played against the likes of Egypt and Tunisia in development teams,” she said. Another debutant, Phofedi, said she was expecting the team to do better after the intense training they went through.

The Libero said she had gained from the knowledge of other experienced players in the team. For her part, Moyo expressed optimism for the team’s chance to proceed further in the qualifiers as they enter the competition as a strong unit.

Like Chakalisa, Moyo has played for the Under 20 and Under 23 teams and was the captain of Botswana’s African Youth Games volleyball team in 2014. The winner of the continental qualifiers will gain automatic qualification to Rio while the next two finishers will proceed to the final world Olympic Qualifiers to be played in May.

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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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