The 2014 Africa Youth Games: A stepping stone towards greatness

The just  ended 2014 Africa Youth Games have enhanced Botswana’s chances of hosting more major tournaments in the future. Representatives from the International Olympic Committee and the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa hailed the competition as “a great success” given the country’s limited time frame to prepare for the games.
Botswana was awarded the rights to host the event in March last year, giving the  organizing committee  only 14 months to prepare for the continental tournament. However,  the committee  exceeded expectations by hosting an event that will surely be a hard act to follow.

 
The 2019 All Africa Games are believed to be the next major event targeted by the Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) and  the rave reviews earned from the successful hosting of the Youth Games will encourage the committee to prepare a bid for the All Africa Games. Such a move would be in compliance with the Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC) excellence strategy which encourages sports bodies to host as many international competitions as possible.

 
Top officials such as Lassana Palenfo (ANOCA president), Thomas Bach (IOC president) and Molly Rhone (International Netball Federation) were amongst high profile officials who graced the Gaborone held tournament.

UPIC

 
This year’s event was the biggest since the Youth Games’ inception in 2010, having more participants as well as more sport codes. The biggest contributor to the success of the games was the attendance; local spectators flocked to different venues and created an electric atmosphere that encouraged local youngsters to  perform well. Supersport (the official broadcasters of the tournament) commentators praised the attendance saying , “The people of Botswana have really embraced these games.”

 
Team Botswana had set a target of obtaining at least 30 medals,  which they surpassed,  scooping 33 medals to finish the competition as the sixth best performing team out of the 54 participating countries. The following athletes have endeared themselves to the nation and gave spectators a glimpse of what is expected to be a bright future for local sports.

 

Mohammed Otukile (Boxing)
The fearsome 17 -year -old boxer added a gold medal to his array of accolades in the past year. The BISA Champion (49kg category) is arguably the next best boxer in the country. A silver medal at continental level (Africa Youth Boxing Championships) earlier this year was a sign of  great things to come as he finally lived up to his potential.

 

Netball and karate.
The netball team clinched a bronze medal,  showing  why Botswana is highly ranked in the netball fraternity. Most of the youngsters from the team will graduate to the senior team ahead of the upcoming Africa Netball Championships in September.  Award winning coach George Tshikare’s team sent the nation into a frenzy with their impressive displays during the games. They were one of the first local codes to win a gold medal.  Thabang Setshego and the boys’ kata team were among the best performers in the karate team.

 

Karabo Sibanda (Athletics, 200m)
Whenever an athlete is stationed in lane 8, the odds are stacked  on him/her. However, Sibanda defied those odds by out-pacing his opponents throughout the men’s 200m final. He obtained a gold medal for his efforts and this has helped him qualify for the 2014 Youth Olympics. The 17 -year -old could be on the path to greatness, becoming  ‘the next Isaac Makwala’.

 

Thebe Baboloki (Athletics, 100m and 200m)

Baboloki obtained a silver medal in the men’s 100 m final after finishing  only six milliseconds behind South Africa’s Ronald Rakaku. He redeemed himself in the 200m final by  claiming  a gold medal which secured him a place at the upcoming Youth Olympics.