MAPUTO: Botswana national teams underlined their regional dominance with a haul of 92 medals that included 41 gold, 40 silver and 11 bronze at the Region V Karate Championships held here on Saturday.
The hosts, Mozambique, together with South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique were Botswana’s other competitors.
South Africa and Namibia finished joint second with 50 medals each while Zimbabwe took fourth position and the hosts trailed in fourth place with 44 medals. The competition was a dress rehearsal for Botswana as they prepare to host the championships next year in Gaborone. Fielding probably the strongest pack of karetekas, Botswana came in as favourites as they won the championship held in Zimbabwe last year. Botswana had brought 40 athletes under the guidance of Sensei Otto Tafa (senior team), Sensei Christopher Ponatshego (Under 21) and Sensei Goitseone Mongologa (youth).
The warm weather of the coastal city was exactly what the doctor had prescribed for the Botswana team as they descended into the indoor sport arena at a local university. The mood was high despite other teams also appearing psyched up for the event. Before long, Botswana athletes started making their mark to register medals.
Tlotlang Ponatshego who went into the competition as a dark horse, worked hard to prove himself as he scooped five medals. The medals were gold in the Under-21 individual kata, under 75kg individual kumite and in the senior men’s kumite. He grabbed a silver in individual kata senior men losing to local karateka, Ofentse Bakwadi. In the individual kumite, Ponatshego grabbed a silver medal behind another local, Oratile Caiphus.
Lame Hetanang won her first Region V gold medal in the female kumite. She went on to grab another gold in the female kata. Hetanang told Monitor Sport that her win meant a lot to her. She said it was an indication that she was on the right track. The win was a good run from the silver medal that she picked from Cameroon during the UFAK championships.
“This year, my plan was to work hard and win all the tournaments I compete in. You can see that results are coming forth.
Another gold medallist, Merylin Manthe said her win might see her being shortlisted for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games squad. She said Region V was part of preparations.
“I had four matches but this one was tough. My opponent took me by suprise and I had to dig deep to beat her,” she said.
Teto Wakwena had a good run as he grabbed a gold in the senior team. He said initially he was selected for the Under-21 but his coach threw him into the deep end and included him in the senior men’s team. The athlete grabbed the opportunity with both hands and delivered. Wakwena said he would continue with hard work and battle for a spot in the Junior World Championships team.
Coach Tafa said the championships went according to plan. He said athletes executed the game plan accordingly. He said Botswana has always been a regional powerhouse and the weekend achievement was proof of that.
“It is the first time that we had so many gold medals from this championships. Literally all medals went to Botswana. In the past, we had always brought a bigger team to the competition but we have never had so many medals,” he said.
Tafa said there were some challenges off the field, but he was happy that they forgot about that and focused on the assignment at hand. He pointed out that even athletes who did not do well at UFAK redeemed themselves.
Ofentse Bakwadi, Thabang Setshego, Mpho Bosenakitso, Tsholofelo Maduma, Thabang Maleke, Gabriel Seleke, Kagiso Mophuting, Oratile Nkgumisang, Mogakolodi Motlhobi, Oratile Caiphus, Wampata Gakemokgothu, Louis Modibela, Lentle Tanyala.