MASERU – Lesotho Athletics Federation (LAF) has lined up a number of races for local athletes in a bid to help them qualify for the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games.
The Olympic Games are scheduled to take place from July 23 to August 8, after they were postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to LAF Secretary General, Makara Thibinyane, they have lined up four races; three open track and field events and a national championship in order for their athletes to be in a good shape ahead of the Olympic Games.
“We have about four open tracks which we are planning to hold, one on April 24 and the following on May 16 and on May 22, while the last track on May 29 will be the National Championship,” said Thibinyane in an interview with Public Eye on Tuesday.
Thibinyane said they had planned to send a team of athletes who preparing for the Olympics to the South African Championship which took place last weekend “but we failed after learning that the championship was closed for foreign athletes.”
“We were hoping that South Africa would allow us to send our middle and long-distance athletes to take part at their national championship but that did not happen as they said their championship is only open to their local athletes.”
The athletes who had been earmarked for the South African championships are those who compete in 1500 metres, 5000 and 10 kilometres.
After this plan fell through, Thibinyane said the forthcoming local open track and field events are specifically for the athletes to shape up for the national championship.
“This is for the athletes who are on the long-list (for the Olympics) to shape up for the national championship. Again, as part of the preparation (for the Olympic Games) we are also working to have an electronic timing system for the National Championship on May 29 in order for our athletes to qualify with electronic times.”
Thibinyane said he had already written to the Athletics South Africa (ASA) and to the Athletics Association of Swaziland (AAS) to lend them the system.
He further said they were planning to hold a half marathon on May 8 from Morija to Matsieng for their marathoners to also shape up.
“We are also planning to send our marathoners to Port Elizabeth in South Africa for a 42.2 kilometres on May 23 where South Africa is also looking to have their marathoners qualify for the Olympic Games. So we think we can send about five marathoners to that race.”
Thibinyane said they were currently preparing for their marathoners to start training at the Setsoto Stadium. He said there were nine of them, and that not all were on the long-list for the Olympic Games preparation.
“Even though others (of the nine marathoners) are not on the long-list, but it doesn’t mean they cannot go to Tokyo even if they qualify.
As long as they can qualify they will make the team. What is needed is for any athlete to meet the qualifying standards. ”
Some of the athletes who are on the LAF’s long-list for the Olympic Games are Badboy Toka, Nemakoe Nkhasi, Mokulubete Makatisi, Lineo Chaka, ‘Neheng Khatala and Lerato Sechele.
Thibinyane said Khoarahlana Seutloali was so far Lesotho’ only athlete who had qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games, while Khatala and Sechele had both qualified for the African Senior Championships.
The 22nd edition of the African Senior Championships is set to take place in Oran, Algeria from June 1 to 5.
The continental sporting event will also be an opportunity for the African athletes to offer themselves another high level competition and for them to force their destinies in search of the required standards for the Tokyo Olympic Games.