MASERU – A 12-man strong Lesotho paralympian team will battle it out in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, to secure qualification for the upcoming Paralympics set for Tokyo, Japan, beginning August 25 to September 6.
According to the National Paralympics Committee of Lesotho (NAPCOL) treasurer, Thabiso Ratšoane, the Port Elizabeth competition will commence on March 20 and end on March 26.This development follows the botched hosting of the first-ever African Para-Games that were to be used as Paralympics qualifiers, the games were scheduled for the Moroccan capital Rabat.
Morocco shocked the continental sporting fraternity when they reserved their decision to host the event after an earlier agreement. The decision was announced after the country’s former sports minister was reshuffled in cabinet and a new minister took office.
Ratšoane said because of these changes, Region 5 countries had to identify another competition to use as the qualifiers and the Port Elizabeth competition was the best option for them as it takes place within the qualification period of the Tokyo Paralympics Games qualification guide.
“There was a change of the minister (of sports) in Morocco and it was said the new minister ordered that the games (qualifiers) be cancelled since they would cost them a lot of money,” Ratšoane said in an interview with Public Eye on Tuesday this week.
Ratšoane said this decision was arrived at because Morocco indicated that they would be bound to give a facelift and upgrade their existing sports grounds to accommodate disabled athletes at their stadiums for ease of movement.
On the qualifiers, Ratšoane said six of their players will be competing at the Port Elizabeth competition as part of preparation for the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Under-20 Youth Games which are set for Maseru in December this year; while the other six will be vying for slot at the upcoming Tokyo Paralympic Games.
“Six of them are youngsters we are preparing for the Region 5 games to be held in the country in December, and the other six are senior athletes who are gearing up for places in the slot in the Tokyo Paralympics,” he said.
The six senior athletes are Retšelisitsoe Tšoeu, Bolae Lekoetje, Khotso Mojake, Mosiuoa Motsieloa, Sello Ranketu and Litšitso Khotlele.
Khotlele goes to these qualifiers having already booked herself a place in Tokyo games, she qualified during the World Paralympics Athletics Championships which were held in Dubai in November last year, they Dubai games doubled as the Tokyo Paralympics qualifiers.
“Khotlele qualified with a B standard ranking in Dubai after making 8.70 in discus (and 7.13 in shotput) and now she will be looking for an A standard ranking in Port Elizabeth,” Ratšoane said.
Lekoetje also tried his luck in Dubai but unfortunately had an ear problem that forced him to pull out of the competition. Ratšoane said Lekoetje is now fine and looking forward to the upcoming qualifiers.