NAIROBI: Botswana's team at the ongoing 1st Africa Deaf Athletics Championships has found the going tough, without any medal to show since the opening day on Tuesday.
The competition, held at Kasirani Stadium in the Kenyan capital, has seen Botswana field seven athletes.
Akanyang Golebamang and Kealeboga Karesaza reached the men’s 800m and 200m finals respectively.
A third athlete, Rose Moutswi made it to the women’s 200m final. However, all the three failed to deliver the country’s first medal.
Wednesday was a rest day, but the hunt for the elusive medal began yesterday, when the competition resumed. Kenya leads the medal table with 14, while Ethiopia and Algeria are second and third respectively.
Botswana’s hopes were pinned on Golebamang who is the most experienced athlete in the team. He took the lead in the first round of his race only for a contingent of Kenyans to box him towards the finishing line. Golebamang eventually finished eighth as Kenyan athletes claimed the first two positions, with Algeria taking bronze. Karesaza’s race was marred in controversy as there were four false starts, and the Botswana athlete bizarrely picked an injury even before the sprint started.
The athlete had shown immense potential after he won his heat with a time of 23.13.
Moutswi had a bad day in the 200m race, finishing last with a time of 33.42.
Golebamang said he had started the final according to plan.
“I had a good race during the semifinal and my body was responding well but I picked a minor knock when I reached the finishing line. It was a very close contest and I gave it my all to beat the Kenyans, hence I pulled a muscle,” he told Mmegi Sport.
“I have been preparing for this race for some time, but things changed in the final because the Kenyans had a plan against me. My finishing was difficult because they shoved me with their elbows. My medal hopes have been dashed.”
Golebamang said the main lesson moving forward is to improve his technique especially when it comes to finishing. He said 800m is a physical race especially when it comes to the last 100m.
The team manager, Edward Mbengwa said the competition has been an eye opener. He said competing with 12 countries was always going to be a challenge.
He said it was the first time the athletes used starting lights that in some instance proved difficult, even to the technical officers.
“Skill remains a challenge for us. We should go back to the drawing board and work on it. Sometimes we should consider engaging a professional coach. The athletes felt that they needed time to get used to the equipment that they were using during the competition,” he said.
Mbengwa revealed that the team did not get enough training camp and they started compiling a database for deaf athletes this year. He said the first deaf competitions in Botswana were held in February and there was no continuity since then until two months before the Kenya trip. The country’s hopes now lie with the relay and marathon teams. Competition ends on Saturday. Meanwhile, Mbengwa said they were impressed with the way the Kenyan government is supporting the deaf team.
“Their government went all out. As you can see, the team is in top shape. They have been to different countries for tournaments preparing for this competition. They have professional coaches. Back home, we still have a long way to go when it comes to deaf sport,” he added.