MASERU – Lesotho is doing everything it can to push its Olympics cycling hopeful Tumelo Makae to realise his dream of qualifying for his first Olympic Games.
Makae, 22, desperately needs to meet the International Cycling Union (UCI) standard qualification in order to qualify for next year’s Olympic Games to be held in Tokyo, Japan from July 24 to August 9.
For Makae to qualify for the Tokyo games, Lesotho must rank among top 21 countries in the world in the mountain biking category.
Currently the Mountain Kingdom is in position 37.
This means between now and May next year, Makae and other Lesotho cyclists must compete in several international cycling events in order to be able to collect enough points to improve the country’s standing in UCI rankings.
Makae, who ranks 167 in the world, competed at the South African MTB Cup last Saturday along with Phetetso Monese and three other Lesotho cyclists.
Makae finished on 9th place, a place behind Monese. Lesotho riders competed against 24 other riders, most of whom were from South Africa with a few from both Namibia and Mauritius.
“To accumulate enough points, I needed to have at least appeared on second position behind the South African winner but that did not happen. I was also outpaced by two Namibians and a Mauritian rider,” said Makae in an interview with Public Eye on Wednesday this week.
“But I will never give up. I need to keep my head up and collect as many points as I possibly can ahead of next year’s Olympic Games.
“We still have over a year to prepare for the games, so it is still possible to make it inside the top 20. But we will have to compete in many international races to get the essential points,” Makae further said.
Makae’s manager, Mark West, said the Mpumalanga race was a tough UCI class 1, which needed proper preparation.
“It was tough, and the track was difficult, so much so that several contestants failed to complete the course,” West told Public Eye on Tuesday.
He further said: “It was a UCI class 1 race and we are pushing hard to be in qualifying rankings.”
Makae understands very well that other Lesotho riders will also have to contribute to ensure that he secures the Olympic slot.
“This will be possible if all of us can contribute towards collecting points for the country’s ranking because they too will soon need to compete in international races where the same standard qualification applies.
“So, I hope between now and next year they will compete in international events held either in South Africa or Europe. This will definitely open doors for them in terms of qualifying for the same Tokyo Olympic Games.”
In a bid to push Makae to meet the UCI standard qualification, the Lesotho rider competed at the 11th Mountain Bike African Championship at Farm Windhoek in Kleine Kuppe, Namibia from April 12 to 13, where he finished in 12th place among other 31 competitors.
The championship was a qualifying event for the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games, and apart from Makae, seven other Lesotho riders also competed in the race.
After last Saturday’s SA MTB cup, Makae returned to Switzerland at the World Cycling Centre to further enhance his performance for the Tokyo games.
He first moved to Switzerland in 2016 through an Olympic sponsorship and returned home in December last year.
“He flew back to Switzerland yesterday (on Monday this week) and he is now at the centre full-time,” said West.
He said Makae would be competing at the World Cup Series in Germany next weekend, adding that would be a tough event as he would be up against some of the best riders in the world.
But Makae said: “I am hopeful that I will perform well and gain some points for the country’s rankings.”