Her never-say-die spirit pays off in the end
MASERU – ‘Neheng Khatala will be making her first appearance at the approaching Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan – thanks to her coach Andrew Booyens and husband Khoarahlane Seutloali’s support and confidence in her.
The 28-years-old Lesotho long-distance runner’s never-say-die spirit finally paid-off last Sunday as she won the Retail Capital Langa Marathon in 2:28:06 in Cape Town, South Africa, to realise her dream of competing at the Olympics. Khatala is now Lesotho’ second athlete to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games after her husband, Seutloali, who booked his ticket to the global multi-sporting event in japan as the country’s first in 2019.
Just like his wife, Seutloali also qualified while running in Cape Town where he finished the Sanlam Marathon in 2:11:04.
Khatala, who runs for the Pietermaritzburg based-club, Save Orion, said she kept on training hard even during the COVID-19 lockdown, because she never gave up on her dream to book a place at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
“I am very excited,” said Khatala in an interview with Public Eye on Monday. “I have been working hard for this. I kept training even during the lockdown.” Khatala further said: “I never gave up but rather pushed myself hard because I always believed that I would eventually make it to the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games once athletic activities resume.”
The former Nedbank team runner also gave credit to her South African coach, Booyens, whom she said played a big role in her qualification for the Olympics. “My coach kept on encouraging me that I should focus on training hard so that I could perform well when the athletics season returns to action.”
Khatala again said the fact that her husband had already qualified was another reason for her to push herself hard so that she could also qualify. “My husband also kept on encouraging me, and also the fact that he had already qualified was another reason for me to push myself harder.” Khatala recalled that she kept telling her husband that she would qualify and go together with him to the Olympics.
“I also think what also helped me was the fact that I told myself that I would try hard despite having a very short time to qualify.” Khatala further said: “It was tough for me to achieve that with a very short time to qualify. But I told myself that if I managed to finish my first marathon in 2:41:00 and then later clocked in 2:33:00 to break my first record by almost 9 minutes.
I could as well manage to make 2:29:00, being an international standard qualification for the Olympics for a female marathoner, and I made 2:28:06.” The Tokyo Olympic Games have been rescheduled from July 23 to August 8 after being postponed previously due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
Khatala had also qualified for the African Senior Championships before, but this paper has learned that she’s no longer going to compete at the championships since she qualified for the Olympics.
“We have been advised by her technical team to withdraw her from the African Senior Championships so that she could be able to focus on her preparation for the Tokyo Olympic Games,” said the Secretary General of the Lesotho Athletics Federation (LAF) Makara Thibinyane.
Khatala on her part said she would start preparations for the Tokyo Olympic Games next week. “I must launch a serious preparation after a seven days rest,” she said. None of Lesotho athletes has won an Olympic medal since the country began to participate at the Olympics in 1972.