Karabo Sibanda is among the 20 athletes Botswana expects to send to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games ©Getty Images

Botswana is hoping to send a record 20 athletes to this year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, which takes place just a month before the country celebrates its 50th birthday.

The Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) is optimistic that having the largest contingent ever, bettering the 12 that competed at Beijing 2008, will bring about an improved medal haul.

A mixture of veterans and promising youngsters, including Baboloki Thebe and Karabo Sibanda, are expected to be sent to the Brazilian city.

Thebe won silver in the boys’ 200 metres at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games, while Sibanda finished runner-up in the boys’ 400m at the same event.

Botswana sent just four athletes to London 2012, where Nijel Amos became the country’s first athlete to a win an Olympic medal.

Amos clocked a world junior record and national record time of 1 min 41.73sec to claim 800m silver behind Kenya’s David Rudisha, whose time of 1:40.91 broke the world record.

BNOC chief executive Tuelo Serufho says the body wants to give Botswana the "perfect birthday present" at Rio 2016 with the country’s 50th anniversary falling on September 30.

"We want to perform better than we did in London," he told Mmegi Online.

"In London we could have sent more, but in 2010 we took a decision to send only competitive athletes.

"In the past, regardless of how ill-prepared an athlete was, we used to send them for exposure.

"But now we focus on being competitive and also consider our meagre resources.

"Now we are talking 20 quality athletes that we want to send to Rio."

Nijel Amos became Botswana's first-ever Olympic medallist by claiming silver in the 800m at London 2012
Nijel Amos became Botswana's first-ever Olympic medallist by claiming silver in the 800m at London 2012 ©Getty Images

One athlete who is expected to miss out on selection is former 400m world champion Amantle Montsho, who is currently serving a two-year suspension after being found guilty of taking a banned substance during the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

The 32-year-old, the 2011 world champion and 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist, tested positive for the stimulant methylhexaneamine after finishing fourth.

Having decided not to appeal the ban due to prohibitive costs of BP200,000 (£12,000/$17,500/€16,100), Montsho will not be able to return to competition until July - one month before Rio 2016.  

Serufho said unless Montsho’s suspension is reduced, she would watch the Olympic action from the sidelines.

The ban is a huge stain on the career of Montsho, whose victory in Daegu in 2011 made her the first athlete from Botswana ever to win a world or Olympic title.

After finishing fourth in the Olympics at London 2012, she narrowly failed to retain her world title at Moscow a year later when she led for most of the race only to be pipped on the line by Britain's Christine Ohuruogu. 

Montsho also won consecutive gold medals in 2007 and 2011 at the All-Africa Games and claimed victory at the African Championships in 2008, 2010 and 2012.