Netball: Botswana into big time with upset win

By David Leggat

Gagotheko Tshelametsi looks like she should be sitting exams in high school. Maybe in the fourth form.

Instead the diminutive wing attack was a key figure in the biggest day in Botswana's fledgling netball history at Trusts Stadium yesterday.

Their thrilling 44-43 win over seventh-ranked Barbados ensures Botswana, who arrived with no world ranking, will finish no worse than 12th at their first world champs.

Petite doesn't do justice to Tshelametsi, who is a deceptive 23 and in her fifth year in the national team. At 1.58m and slim to match, she looks no match for a decent northerly. But what might appear a weakness is actually a strength.

"She is important. We need her speed," Botswana's coach Joseph Makakaba said.

"She has such fast legs. Normally in our country when you have tall people you take them to gs or gk [goal shoot or goal keep, the two ends of the court where height rules].

"We don't teach tall people to run fast so we need Gagotheko with her speed and her safe hands."

Tshelametsi's speed and agility was in evidence yesterday as she kept up a steady supply of ball to dead-eye goal shoot Tebogo Radipotsane who carried Botswana home with an outstanding 34-from-36 shooting return.

"That was nice," the shy Tshelametsi smiled afterwards.

Was she confident? "Yeah, yeah."

And last night? "We are going to celebrate." As you would after losing all three pool games, to Wales 54-35, 44-32 to Malawi in the big African showdown, and 76-20 to defending champions New Zealand.

Botswana finished third behind Malawi and South Africa in the Confederation of Southern African Netball Associations championship last year. That qualified them for the worlds.

The drive yesterday was to secure a decent ranking.

As with Malawi, Botswana know the key to success is funding. "After this result our Government will see how important it is to promote netball and get more women involved. This is their game," Makakaba added. "We have shown the world we can improve."

They will get another taste of the Caribbean today when they play Trinidad and Tobago, who are ranked 10th. Win that and they will leave Auckland with No 9 or 10 beside their name.

And that would rank among the biggest success stories of the champs.

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