With a packed calendar of events for the year 2017, Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) is looking to increase the participation of local athletes at international events. The major focus for this year, according to BAA officials, is the IAAF World Athletics Championships. The World Championships will be held in London from 4-13 August 2017. BAA Vice president Rowland Masalila said the association wants to improve Botswana’s representation at the World Championships, adding that they do not only want a good number of athletes to qualify for the world championships but to also send a very strong team. He said they want the team to bring home medals. The team failed to win a medal at the last World Athletics Championships. Masalila said they want to rectify that this year by sending a strong and well prepared team. So far three local athletes – Nijel Amos, Baboloki Thebe and Karabo Sibanda – have qualified for the World Championships. Amos and Thebe qualified by virtue of being African Champions in their respective categories. Sibanda qualified for 400m at the 2017 Orapa Track and Field meet after clocking 45:26 seconds. Masalila said funds allowing, the association is hoping to send a large team to championships this year. He said they will be looking at the likes of Lydia Jele and Christine Botlogetswe to qualify. It is also hoped that the recently returned Amantle Montsho could also qualify for this meet. “It will be nice for the ladies to qualify in large numbers including Montsho,” he said. Montsho has just returned to athletics after serving a two-year suspension. Looking at the calendar of events of the association there are a good number of international competitions that BAA hopes to send athletes to. Masalila said funds allowing they will send athletes to the World Athletics Relay in Bahamas from 22-23 April 2017. “We want to send both the male and female 4x400m relay teams to the world relays,” Masalila said. He is confident that the men’s team will eventually qualify for the world championships. The relay team, which is the current African champions, has proven in a number of times that it is capable. In 2016 the team went on to win a gold medal at the Diamond league in Doha. During the 2016 Rio Olympics the team also came very close to winning a medal after suffering a loss of its key member Baboloki Thebe due to injury. He, however, said attending all the competitions will be dependent on the availability of funds. Different sporting codes have complained that the grant they receive from the Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) is not enough. Masalila said they are trying as the association to get sponsors on board to help them financially. Though, he said, it has been difficult to get sponsor he is hopeful that the association will soon get a financial partner so that it can expand its reach in sports development.