Youth Games gold medalists continue to shine

 Karabo Sibanda Pic Kabo Mpaetona
Karabo Sibanda Pic Kabo Mpaetona

Athletes who scooped gold medals at the last year’s Africa Youth Games are making rapid progress, their coaches have revealed.

Gaborone hosted the competition, which attracted 2,500 athletes in 21 disciplines, making it the biggest sporting event the country has ever hosted. Botswana won seven gold medals with two each for athletics, boxing and karate as well as one in judo. Overall, the country won 34 medals.

Boxing coach, Lechedzani “Master” Luza said he was impressed with the growth of the sport since the games. He said his charges, Rajab Mohammed and Keamogetse Kenosi, both gold medal winners, have grown as athletes.

Mohammed competed at the 2014 Africa Union Sport Council (AUSC) Region Five Under 20 tournament held in Zimbabwe and won gold.  He  has also been nominated for the Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC) awards under the junior male sportsperson of the year while Kenosi got a nod in the junior female sportsperson of the year category.

Luza said the two boxers are students, but they train consistently with their clubs. “Mohammed has qualified for the Commonwealth Youth Games slated for Samoa in September. The Youth Games were a stepping stone for our boxers,” he said. Botswana Karate Association (BOKA) bagged two gold medals through team Kata and individual Kumite. The winning Kata team comprised of Leonard Modise, Tshepo Baumeke and Philip Revaka.

Thabang Omogolo won individual Kumite. Karate coach, George Tshikare said it was unfortunate that the team did not participate in international competitions after the Youth Games due to boardroom fights. Despite that, Tshikare said he was preparing the same athletes for the Zone Six competition scheduled for Johannesburg next week.

Botswana Athletics Association, president Glody Dube said two gold medalists in the 200 metres, Karabo Sibanda and Baboloki Thebe have continued to do well since the games. The two recently returned from the Africa Junior Championships that were held in Ethiopia.

“The two athletes were competing against their age mates during Youth Games, but now they have stepped up their performance. They have improved as athletes and Thebe has qualified for the Olympics Games,” said Dube. 

Judo coach, Kgosipula Kaupa said although the code has been in existence for a long time, it made its mark at the Youth Games --where it did not disappoint. Thato Lebang got a gold medal for Judo under the 66kg category at the games. Kaupa said after the games, they competed at the AUSC where they won five medals. He said being a minority sport, they have grown tremendously due to the inspiration they got from the Youth Games.  Kaupa said the team has also competed in the Southern Junior Championships and Senior African Championships.

“Our players have gained World and African rankings after the Senior African Championships. Gavin Mogopa is ranked 139th  in the World and 16th  in Africa and Lebang is ranked 170th  in the World and 16th in Africa.

“Min-Young Kim is ranked 203rd  in the World and 24th in Africa.

This is a big achievement in a short period,” said Kaupa.  For his part, Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) chief executive officer, Tuelo Serufho said he was impressed by the impact the games has had on the growth of sport in the country.

He observed that the young athletes who were unknown before the games, are now recognised. “Sibanda and Thebe went on to win silver medals at Youth Olympics after the Youth Games.

We have seen another star that emerged during the games, Naomi Ruele who won three gold medals in Mauritius recently.  “She is on her way to qualify for Olympics. It will be the first time swimming qualify for Olympics,” said Serufho.

He said they did not want to put pressure on the athletes because they were still young.

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