MASERU – A group of teenage athletes left the country last week to take part in a winter training programme in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. Four of the trainees are girls, namely; Thato Tšosane, Kolobetso Lechamochamo, Shobonna Dali and Seithati Lefatsa, with boys Vuyelwa Mpalami and Thaba Mnagale. The oldest of the group is 16-years-old, add another is 15 while the rest are 14.
These young trainees will spend two weeks training in Pyeongchang-gun where they will be introduced to events such as bobsleigh, skleton, luge, cross-country skiing, ski jump and alpine ski, among others. This is the first in the country’s sporting history that a group of Lesotho athletes takes part in an official winter sports programme oversees.
Backed by the Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC) and Afriski Mountain Resort, the training is expected to groom the young athletes into becoming snowboarders – to enable Lesotho to compete in snowboarding at the Winter Olympic Games.
LNOC president, Tlali Rampooana, says the trainees are set to be the country’s future stars, something which he appealed to the group to always remember wherever they are. “Ladies and gentlemen you are our stars,” said Rampooana during the send-off ceremony held in Maseru. “I think that’s what you need to put at the back of your minds that you are the future stars of Lesotho.”
Rampooana further expressed optimism that Lesotho will get the honour to host the Winter Olympics in future. “We had a dream and now the dream is happening. We are going to host the Winter Olympics in future.” Rampooana continued that: “This plane has started and will never stop.”
The LNOC boss said his committee was up to the challenge. “The Olympic Committee is up to the challenge. We are going to see to it that the Basotho children are facing the world. We are going to see to it that they are prepared and are ready for the task.”
In his remarks the LNOC Chief Executive Officer, Morake Raleaka, said only Lesotho and South African athletes will be part of the Pyeongchang-gun winter training programme from the Southern African region, while the rest of athletes are from oversees.
The trainees were accompanied by the Afriski duo of Rethabile Morake and Senate Nkhahle as guardians. The Minister of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation, Likeleli Tampane, attended the send-off ceremony as well as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), ’Matlohang Moiloa-Ramopoqo, who is also the former LNOC President.
Lesotho is yet to compete in snowboarding since the LNOC was established in 1971 and was officially recognized as a member of both the IOC and the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) in 1972.