Tau to prove her mettle at World Taekwondo Grand Prix.



MASERU – Lesotho international taekwondo hopeful Michelle Tau will have her hands full this weekend in Rome, Italy, at the World Taekwondo Grand Prix, where she is vying for a ticket to the upcoming Olympic Games slated for France next year. The Rome showpiece kicks off today and ends on Sunday. Tau, 26, is competing in the -49kg weight division rather than her customary -46kg class, the weight category she appeared to prefer competing in, during her past international contests.

According to the Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC)’s public relations officer, Fetang Selialia, this was after Tau failed to qualify for the Paris Olympics at the World Taekwondo Championships in Buku, Azerbaijan, from May 29 to June 4.

The fighter lost in the preliminary stage of the tournament, in which she competed in the -49kg class. “The goal is to ensure that our athletes qualify for the Olympic Games, and so it is not different with Tau,” said Selialia in an interview with Public Eye.

“We want her to qualify because we believe she is doing her best.” Selialia further said, “Politics aside, she is doing quite well, and we wish her all the best in her endeavours.” Tau is one of Lesotho’s athletes who are receiving the Olympic Solidarity Scholarship through the LNOC.

The scholarship is meant to support athletes in their quest to qualify for the Olympic Games. Wishing all local athletes the very best in their efforts, Selialia said they deserved a spot at the distinguished global games. “Tau is not the only one. We also want other local athletes to qualify for the games,” he said. “We have athletes like Mokulubete Makatisi, who also deserves the chance to be in those games.”

Makatisi set a new female national record of 1:09:44 at the Nelson Mandela Bay Half Marathon in Ggeberha, South Africa, last Sunday. Another Olympic Solidarity Scholarship holder, Tebello Ramakongoana, also set a new male national record of 1:00:35 at the same event last weekend. Ramakongoana appeared second in the male category, while Makatisi finished sixth in the female division.

“Ramakongoana is another Olympic Solidarity Scholarship holder, and we are hopeful that he will qualify for the Olympics,” Selialia said. None of Lesotho’s athletes has so far qualified for the Paris Games. Selialia, however, said nations whose athletes have qualified for the Olympics typically are not awarded invitational slots.

In the last Olympic Games held in Tokyo, Japan, Lesotho did not get any wild cards because two of its athletes, Khoarahlane Seutloali and ’Neheng Khatala, had qualified for the international showpiece. “For example, eSwatini was given four invitational slots after none of its athletes qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games. “It almost feels like being punished for qualifying for the games,” Selialia said.

He was quick to note that the LNOC’s intention is to use qualified athletes at the games so that they can match their opponents evenly. “We would like to use qualified athletes and not invited ones because they will not be as competitive.” Selialia said Khatala was a good example in Tokyo, where she appeared in position 20 in the women’s marathon in her debut appearance at the games.

“Khatala was among the top athletes at the Tokyo Olympic Games because she had qualified for the marathon. We do not want athletes who will just be there by invitation.” Lesotho has never won an Olympic medal since the country started competing in the global multi-sport event in 1972.

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