Lesotho’s only two representatives at the recently ended 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, ‘Neheng Khatala Seutloali and her husband Khoarahlane Seutloali were welcomed home on Tuesday by a delegation that was led by the Minister of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation, Likeleli Tampane at the Moshoeshoe 1 International Airport this week.
The duo was the only athletes who had qualified to represent Lesotho at the Olympic Games. Khatala clocked 2:33:15 to become the first Mosotho woman to finish the Olympic Marathon ever since the country made its debut appearance in 1972. Her position 20 finish put her among the best performances by Basotho at the Olympics.
She started the race well and was part of the leading pack for some time in the first half until the eventual winner Peres Jepchirchir and others in the leading pack increased the pace.
Jepchirchir won the females category with a time of 2:27:20 while Brigid Kosgei clocked 2:27:36 to take silver medal and the United States of America (USA’s) Molly Seidel clocked 2:27:46 taking home the bronze medal.
Khatala said because this was her first time at the Olympics she is very happy with her performance despite the unfavorable conditions.
“I am very happy with my performance for a person with no prior experience in the Olympics, it was not easy at all going up against people who have been there before,” Khatala said.
“I believe I have set a standard that I will have to improve on going forward but not only for me. I was expecting the race to be tough and it indeed was not easy, however, I learned so much amongst things I observed is that most countries have many athletes who qualify, which helps them to work as a team.
“I was alone while most countries had athletes who were running in pairs so we need to work on getting many athletes to qualify for the top competitions,” she said.
Meanwhile, on Saturday night Seutloali settled for position 67 in the fiercely-fought male category where Kenya’s Eliid Kipchoge won gold in a time of 2:08:38 while Netherlands Abdi Nageeye took home silver after clocking 2:09:58 and Belgium’s Bashir Abdi settled for bronze with a time of 2:10:00.
Speaking at the welcome ceremony, the Minister congratulated the duo for reaching the level they reached and announced that the two athletes would be each given a token of appreciation for their efforts in a form of M50 000.
“I would like to thank the two athletes for representing the country well and the hard work they put in order to place Lesotho at an international stage, they are our heroes who will also go into the history books,” said the minister.