Khatala withdraws from C’wealth marathon



MASERU – Lesotho’s lone woman marathon hopeful for this year’s Commonwealth Games, ’Neheng Khatala, has withdrawn from the biggest event. The upcoming Commonwealth Games are scheduled to take place in Birmingham, England, from July 28 to August 8. According to the Federation of Athletics Lesotho (FAL) secretary general, Makara Thibinyane, Khatala will no longer compete at the women’s Commonwealth marathon since she has sustained a back injury.

“Khatala is no longer going to compete at the Commonwealth marathon,” said Thibinyane in an interview with Public Eye on Tuesday this week. “We have received reports from her doctors which indicate that she sustained a back injury and, therefore, she could not compete in a marathon until further notice.” Thibinyane, however, said Khatala would still be part of Lesotho’s team for the Commonwealth Games. He said the marathoner had since chosen to compete in the women’s 10 000m.

Lesotho’s chef de mission to the Commonwealth Games, Fetang Selialia, who is also the Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC)’s Public Relations Officer, confirmed Khatala’s change of plan. “Khatala and her coach (Andrew Booyens) have indicated that she has sustained an injury (back pain) and, as a result, running a long distance race could be risky for her for now,” said Selialia. “But what we know as LNOC is that from the beginning she was supposed to run a marathon and we pay her for that as one of our sponsorship holders.”

Khatala earns M18 000 monthly from LNOC through an Olympic Solidarity sponsorship intended for local athletes’ preparations for the next Olympic Games. But, according to LNOC, the same sponsorship also includes preparation for the Commonwealth Games. “We have accepted the request (the withdrawal from the Commonwealth marathon) and we will not question it because we have a letter from a doctor, but we asked that she should not run marathons for the next three months from now,” said Selialia.

Khatala also confirmed that she is going to compete in 10 000m. “Yes, I am going to run 10 000 metres,” Khatala said. “I can run both (marathon and 100 000 metres) if I want.” However, sources within local athletics fraternity told Public Eye that Khatala once said if her coach, Booyens, would not accompany her to the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, she would also rather withdraw her participation.

Booyens, who also coaches Khatala’s husband, Khoarahlane Seutloali, accompanied both athletes to the recent Tokyo Olympic Games. But our reliable sources said LNOC had not considered the inclusion of Booyens this time around. “So, having realised that he has not been considered for the Commonwealth Games, Booyens influenced Khatala not to run the Commonwealth marathon,” said one source. “The reason why he influenced Khatala to withdraw from the marathon was because he wanted to register her for some of the South African races which pay well since he would be getting his share if the runner performs well.” The source said that’s why LNOC said Khatala should not run marathon for the next three months from now.

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