MASERU – Lesotho has not received any quota or tripartite invitations to the Tokyo Olympics, and will be represented by only two athletes – Khoarahlane Seutloali and ’Neheng Khatala.
This is despite the fact that another Lesotho athlete, Motlokoa Nkhabutlane, was close to qualifying for the games to be held in Tokyo, Japan from July 23 to August 8.
The Olympic Quota allocation system is a programme designed to limit the number of athletes participating, and prevent a small number of countries from dominating the field of an Olympic event.
The Tripartite invitation offers an opportunity to National Olympic Committees (NOCs) which have traditionally sent small delegations to the Olympic Games to be represented at the next edition of the Games are now open to be considered.
A further objective of the Olympic Tripartite is to contribute to enhancing and reflecting universality by selecting athletes from such NOCs, which have not been able to qualify, so that they may have an opportunity to be invited to compete in sports and disciplines for which invitation places have been reserved.
Nkhabutlane missed the Olympics qualifying standard by just two seconds, as the marathoner clocked in 2:11:32 (while the qualifying standard in men 42.2 km is 2:11:30) when he came on second place in the Retail Capital Langa Marathon in Cape Town, South Africa in May this year.
The Federation of Athletics Lesotho (FAL) had hoped that Nkhabutlane would benefit from either of the two invitations and go ahead to represent the country in Japan.
Boxers Arena Pakela and Moroke Mokhotho also stood as potential recipients of the quota invitation.
The Lesotho National Olympic Games (LNOC) had gone as far as sending Pakela and Mokhotho to Zambia to prepare for the games.
FAL Secretary Genaral, Makara Thibinyane, told Public Eye in May that Lesotho’s only hope was for local athletes to be invited on quotas for the Tokyo Olympic Games, especially in track and field events since only marathoners, Seutloali and Khatala, were the only athletes who qualified.
“Athletes who are very close as per their current form is Motlokoa Nkhabutlane, looking at the marathon he ran on May 30 where he has managed to improve his ranking which, if I am not mistaken, is number 62,” said Thibinyane at the time.
“So we are still hopeful that when the latest rankings are released soon he (Nkhabutlane) will be among the athletes who are going to compete at the Tokyo Olympic Games, and maybe also Tšepo Ramashamole because there was not a big difference between them when we look at this year’s performance.”
Lesotho was allowed to compete with eight athletes at the 2016 Olympic Games held in Rio, Brazil, all through Quota and Tripartite after none had qualified for the games.
This saw five athletes, Mosito Lehata (100m and 200m) Tšepang Sello (800m) Namakoe Nkhasi (5000m) and two marathoners, Tšepo Mathibelle and Lebenya Nkoka; two boxers, Moroke Mokhotho and the late Inkululeko Suntele as well as cyclist, Phetetso Monese getting the opportunity to participate at the Rio Games.
But Lesotho’s chef de mission to the Tokyo Olympic Games, Letsatsi Ntsibolane, told reporters on Wednesday this week that Lesotho has not received any of the special invitations for this year’s Olympic Games.
Ntsibolane failed to explain the reasons Lesotho was not considered for the invitations despite indicating that neighbours eSwatini being given a chance to send four athletes to Tokyo on invitation after all of the country’s athletes failed to qualify.
The country has two athletes who have qualified.
“You will remember that we have an annual programme called Olympic Solidarity in which athletes enter into to prepare for the next (Olympics) games, and we started to prepare the athletes a long time ago for the upcoming games,” said Ntsibolane.
“You will also remember that we have two boxers who have just returned home from Zambia for training so that if it happens that we get invitations (Quota or Tripartite) as usual the two boxers will be ready for the games.
“So the question will be whether there are any athletes who have got invitations compared to past years and the answer will be no; thee are no athletes who have been invited. They are only athletes who have qualified are Khoarahlane Seutloali and ’Neheng Khatala,” Ntsibolane said.
He added they did everything they could to prepare the athletes for the Olympic qualifiers but said the journey proved to be difficult.
“The journey for the Tokyo Olympic Games has never been easy from the beginning until today as we have only two marathon runners who have qualified for the Olympics.”
Seutloali and Khatala, who are also a married couple, qualified without the help of LNOC through the Olympic Solidarity sponsorship, while all the athletes who were part of the Olympic Solidarity sponsorship failed to qualify.
Lesotho athletes who were part of the Olympic Solidarity sponsorship include Moroke Mokhotho (boxer), Tumelo Makae (cyclist) and Michelle Tau (taekwondo player). Lesotho is yet to win an Olympic medal since 1972 when the Mountain Kingdom first participated at the Olympic Games.