Botswana Swimming sensation James Freeman is the latest individual local athlete to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics slated for Japan later this month. This comes after Freeman found himself amongst invited athletes who have achieved an Olympic Selection Time (OST) also referred to “B” time after they failed to clock Olympic Qualifying Times (OQT) usually known as “A” Time in Swimming circles.
Originally, the qualification period was scheduled to end on June 29, 2020 but it was extended after the Coronavirus pandemic postponed the Olympic Games by one year and it was officially closed on June 29 this year.
According to FINA, in an event that the quota of 878 athletes is not reached, FINA will assess the number of athletes having automatically achieved the OQT / “A” time and will then invite athletes who have achieved an OST / “B” time, until the total quota of 878 athletes is reached. OST places is distributed by event, according to the position on the FINA World Ranking of 27th June 2021 and Freeman benefited from this model of qualification.
Freeman is set to make his debut at the Olympics at the age of 20 following in the footsteps of John Kamyuka, Samantha Paxinos, David Van Der Colff and Naomi Ruele who represented Botswana at the past Olympics edition. The 400m freestyle specialist won bronze at the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games in Bahamas and made his debut at the 2019 World Aquatics Championships even though he did not qualify to compete in the finals.
The University of Minnesota sophomore will swim in the men’s 200-meter and 400-meter freestyle races in Tokyo. He holds every individual freestyle, butterfly and medley record in Botswana following his impressive run in local and continental competitions. Freeman joins Isaac Makwala, Nijel Amos, Leungo Scotch, Amantle Montsho, Christine Botlogetswe, Galefele Moroko (athletics), Keamogetse Kenosi, Mohammed Rajab Otukile (Boxing) and Magdeline Moyengwa (Weightlifting) to take the tally of qualified individual athletes to 10.
The last time Botswana was represented at the Olympics was in 2016 Rio, Brazil through Naomi Ruele who also qualified through a “B Time” and competed in 50m women freestyle alongside David Van Der Colff who competed in the men’s 100 metre backstroke event.