African Senior Athletics Championships shelved
MASERU – Federation of Athletics Lesotho’s (FAL) preparations for the Tokyo Olympic Games has been dealt a huge blow with the cancellation of the African Senior Athletics Championships scheduled between June 23 to 27 in Lagos, Nigeria.
This 22nd edition of the continental athletics contests was initially scheduled for June 22 to 26 in Algiers, Algeria, but was postponed due to the country’s health situation linked to the Covid-19 pandemic. The decision followed recommendations of the Algerian scientific committee for monitoring the evaluation of the pandemic.
According to FAL Secretary General, Makara Thibinyane, Nigeria was announced as the next hosts until their announcement last week that they were also pulling out as a host country.
Nigeria also pulled out because of the Covid-19 pandemic scare. “It is with regret that I announce the cancellation of the Africa
Senior Championships which were planned to take place in Lagos, Nigeria from June 23-27, 2021,” reads a Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) letter to national federations.
“Indeed, after the Algeria’s desire to postpone the championships, and realising the need to offer competition to our athletes, the confederation decided to find a host country so as to save the championships.”
The CAA’s letter further reads: “Unfortunately, Nigeria, which committed to host the competition, has just informed the CAA that the Scientific Commission has not allowed to host such a big competition.”
Thibinyane said the cancellation of the championships has affected their plans since they were looking to use it for local athletes to qualify for the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games.
“It is going to affect us a lot, taking into consideration the magnitude of the competition at the African Senior Championships,” Thibinyane told this paper.
“We were looking to use it for our athletes to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games and they were definitely going to qualify given the magnitude of the competition.”
Athletics’ power couple of Khoarahlane Seutloali and ’Neheng Khatala-Seutloali remain so far the country’s only athletes to have already booked places to represent Lesotho at this year’s Olympics.
Both are marathoners. Khatala qualified for the Olympic Games a fortnight ago, while her husband booked a place in the Olympics two years ago – both qualified while running in Cape Town, South Africa.
Thibinyane said as a result of the cancellation of the continental championships, they have no other option but to send their athletes to the Athletics Gauteng North (AGN) races in Pretoria, South Africa to seek Olympics qualification.
“The only chance we have now is to send our athletes to the Athletics Gauteng North league races next week and on June 19 after the cancellation of the African Championships which would have been the last event on our calendar for our athletes to qualify for the Olympic Games.”
Thibinyane said their target was to have at least five athletes qualifying for the Olympics.
“Our target is to have five athletes qualifying for the Olympic Games, but as we speak we only have two marathoners who have qualified.”
Thibinyane further said: “In the track and field events we are hoping that Mojela Koeneshe and Toka Badboy will also qualify, as well as triple jumper, Lerato Sechele.”
Koeneshe and Badboy qualified for the African Senior Championships three weeks ago, and were joining the Seutloalis for the continental showpiece.
Khatala-Seutloali, however, would no longer compete at the African Senior Championships after she had qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games two weeks ago.
Thibinyane told this paper that Khatala-Seutloali’s South African team advised the FAL to withdraw her from competing at the championships so that she could focus on her preparations for the Olympics.
The FAL secretary general said Sechele, Badboy and Koeneshe would be joined by other three athletes to the Athletics Gauteng North races.
“We are probably going to send a total of six athletes, as there are those who are also doing well, those include ’Mathakane Letsie,” said Thibinyane.
Lesotho has failed to bring home an Olympic medal since 1972 when the country began competing at the global multi-sporting event.