Olympian apologises for misbehaving

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NTHAKO MAJORO

MASERU – In a dramatic turn of events, top marathoner and Olympian, ’Neheng Khatala, who lost her Olympic Solidarity Scholarship under the Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC), has apologised to the local sports fraternity for what she deemed unacceptable conduct on her part. “I am not proud of my actions; what I did was childish, and I had to be chastised for it,” the athlete said, apologising and begging for another chance.

Khatala openly admitted her past mistakes last Friday as KAO Mine officially announced a M250 000 sponsorship for her to be able to prepare for the upcoming Olympic Games to be held in Paris, France, between July and August next year. Public Eye wrote the story about why Khatala lost the Olympic Solidarity sponsorship a few months ago.

LNOC’s Public Relations Officer, Fetang Selialia, revealed to this paper at the time that the sponsorship had to be terminated because of ill-discipline by the athlete.  However, Selialia did not disclose what exactly the marathoner did for her to lose the contract. But sources close to the matter at the time said Khatala and other athletes who were supposed to represent Lesotho at the last Commonwealth Games, which were held in Birmingham, England, were not happy with the allowances they received.

Normally, Team Lesotho officials get better allowances than the athletes for any international competition. Even though our sources did not disclose how much the athletes’ allowance for the games was, they said Khatala, to be specific, was not at all happy with the amount they received from LNOC.

Khatala also did not disclose what really happened at the time but only confirmed the termination of her sponsorship. Even last Friday, Khatala did not disclose what exactly happened.

“But once again, I ask for forgiveness, said Khatala in the presence of the new sports minister, Motlatsi Maqelepo, President of the Federation of Athletics Lesotho (FAL) Tšeliso Pheta, and LNOC’s Head of Programmes, amongst others who attended the event in Maseru.

Khatala further said: “What I did was childish, and a child is reprimanded and not abandoned.” However, Khatala said what bothered her most about the incident was that they did that as athletes, but she was the only one who got punished for that.

Nchaka, on the other hand, said that was not the first time Khatala asked to be forgiven. “She always asks for forgiveness,” said Nchaka at the same function.

“But the apology is accepted.” Nchaka, however, further explained that Khatala had to lose the sponsorship for good because of its clear regulations on discipline for the athletes.

Therefore, the KAO Mine sponsorship came at the right time for Khatala, who is trying hard to qualify for the Paris Olympic Games.

The same mine still played a helping hand for Khatala in qualifying for the last Olympic Games, which were held in Tokyo, Japan, in 2021. “Our journey with Khatala started with Tokyo 2021, and she performed well there,” said KAO Mine official ’Malehlohonolo Mojaki.

“As the mine, we are going to sponsor Khatala for the Olympic Games qualification to the tune of M250 000.” Khatala said the KAO Mine sponsorship made her the happiest athlete in the world. “I am very proud of the KAO Mine sponsorship. I am truly happy. I think it will ease my mind and body a lot.”

She further said, “The sponsorship makes me think differently. It keeps you on your toes as every day when you wake up you think about training and nothing else, and that puts pressure on you as an athlete, but it is pressure with a motivation to such an extent that one may end up doing overtraining.”

Khatala came in at position 20 at the Tokyo Olympic Games women’s marathon. She said the KAO Mine sponsorship would play a vital role in her attempt to qualify for her second Olympic Games in a row, as the Tokyo Olympics was her first time ever.

Thus far, Lesotho only has one athlete who has already qualified for the Paris Olympic Games, namely Tebello Ramakongoana. Ramakongoana, who is also a marathoner, qualified for the Paris Olympics during the World Athletics Championships, which were held in Budapest, Hungary, three months ago. He came in fourth in the men’s marathon, clocking in at 2:09:57.

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