Botswana Karate Association (BOKA) has set an ambitious target of winning only gold and silver medals at the Africa Union Sport Council (AUSC) Region V Karate Championship, which kick off at the Boipuso Hall today.
The hosts are the defending champions and will contest against Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Botswana started their preparations with selection tournaments in February. A few weeks ago, Italian-based coach, Sensei Giussepe Romano was invited to assist. The senior team that also includes players from the Under-21 age group has 44 karatekas while the junior team has 56. Botswana has fielded two karatekas per category.
Amongst categories are male and female individual and team kata, Under-50kg, 55kg, 60kg, 61kg, 67kg, 68kg, 75kg and 84kg. Senior national team coach, Sensei Peter Molefhe said the team is ready for battle.
“We went through a vigorous selection process. The selections were divided into three sets; three for seniors and three for juniors. During selection, we focused on areas that needed improvement. The main challenge is endurance because clubs train in different ways. So when training started, we worked on their physical aspects first,” he said.
Molefhe said the team went into camp in April, with karatekas who had not made the grade, but good enough, being taken along. He said such karatekas were brought in to beef the team especially for kumite. “Most of them were graduating from the junior team to the senior team. I could not risk taking them alone hence we brought experience. They are responding well during training,” Molefhe said. He said the plan is to continue where they left off last year and do better. He said they are not only focusing on Region V, but other competitions such as Africa Cup.
“In the beginning we were struggling but for the past four years we have been doing well. We should now show growth and challenge for bigger tournaments,” he said. Molefhe said athletes are going to use the weekend championship to prepare for upcoming tournaments.
Kgosikoma said Region V does not give them the much-needed competition. Thato Malunga, who has competed in the Region V tournament more than 10 times, is expected to wage a war in the women’s individual kumite (Under 55kg) and women’s individual kata. Malunga is making a comeback after missing last year’s Maputo tournament.
“It is not going to be an easy tournament and I would be coming in as an underdog. Somebody else would be the defending champion,” she said. Malunga said since last year she has competed in international tournaments and she expects a challenging opposition.
The men’s team captain, Oratile Caiphus said the hard work started in December because they were informed that the selections were for Region V and Africa Cup.
“All along we have been fielding one athlete per category, but now we expect our athletes to meet in the final hence we are targeting gold and silver,” he said.
Caiphus said despite their confidence they cannot undermine their opponents. He said countries such as Zimbabwe are a threat. He said South Africa has been failing to win the championship and are expected to come out firing. Some of individuals who are expected to shine at the tournament are Malunga, Ofentse Bakwadi, Caiphus and Mpho Bosenakitso, Gabriel Ramasimong, Thebe Duna, Dan Botlhogile, Entle Maungwa, Gabriel Seleke, Lentle Tanyala and Thabo Enga.