- But Rabat, Ankara come before Tokyo 2020 for wunderkind
- Karabo Kula stood out as a 16-year old who beat her seniors at the African Games in Morocco where she won a bronze last year
Even though theirs is one of the least popular sporting codes in the country, Botswana Taekwondo Federation (BTF) is doing all it can to ensure that they have representation at Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
To achieve this, BTF has lined up a series of intense preparations for its wonderkind fighter, Karabo Kula, among them her participation in the African Taekwondo Olympic Qualification Tournament in Rabat, Morocco from 22 to 23 February.
Gazette Sport has established that before Kula goes to Rabat, she will travel to Ankara, Turkey on a trip funded by the Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) to take part in the Turkish Open Tournament. The Vice President of BTF, Celia Chikaonda, says Kula will take part in the Turkish Open because they want her to rub shoulders with the best taekwondo fighters before the Olympic qualifiers.
Chikaonda believes that Kula will do well in Turkey because she is in good shape. “She is looking good and does not have any injuries,” she says. “Her mindset is on point that her aim is to do well at the qualifiers and make it to the Olympics. But she has to work on her stamina and hone some skills. That is why we are taking her to Turkey.”
Even so, Kula’s mentors are keenly aware that they should not put the 16-year old under too much pressure ahead of Tokyo. “If she qualifies, it will be a bonus for us,” Chikaonda explains. “Our main focus with her is really on the 2024 Olympics.”
Kula marked her presence in the world of taekwondo when she surprised many by bagging a bronze medal at the African Games in Morocco last year. At that moment, the teenager made history as she became the first taekwondo fighter from Botswana to win a medal at the African Games since the tournament began in 1965. Most significantly, Kula – who was then aged 16 – was the first Motswana junior to win a medal at the African Games, which are for senior athletes.
Taekwondo is a Korean martial art characterised by emphasis on head-height kicks, jumping and spinning kicks and fast kicking techniques. It is one of the two martial arts in the Olympics. It was firstly a demonstration event in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games that eventually turned into an official medal event in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. In 2010, it was also accepted into the Commonwealth Games.
Taekwondo has successfully put its name on the map of international sports, particularly of those on the Olympic Programme, and has become one of the most widely practised sports in the world with 70 million practitioners from 200 member countries.