The Lesotho National Olympics Committee (LNOC) is hopeful that Lesotho will be well represented at the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games despite inactivity of athletes due to Covid-19 restrictions.
The Olympic Games which were meant to be hosted last year got postponed due to the rampant COVID-19 pandemic and will go ahead this year in July and August.
LNOC Spokesperson Moshoeshoe Molapo, said they have received a communique from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), which states that the games could go ahead provided the athletes get doses of COVID-19 vaccine to prevent them from contracting the disease.
He said although they expect the games to go ahead as planned, there are currently no ongoing preparations because of the prevailing lockdown and the suspension of all sporting activities in the country.
“The games are indeed taking place this year. And Lesotho so far only has one athlete qualified for the games and we are hopeful that as the season begins in February some of our high performance athletes will still make the cut,” Molapo said.
He was however, confident that athletes are training individually in preparation for the global games.
Most athletes were now intensifying their preparations for the Olympic Games, therefore there is no doubt that those very preparations are heavily suffering.
For athletes such as long distance runner Jobo Khatoane, the current situation may have dire impact on their chances of qualification.
Khatoane last represented Lesotho at the 2012 Olympics in 2012, and failed to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics. He had been preparing for a return to the ultimate sporting stage until the scare of Covid-19 erupted.
“I’m waiting for February as I have a few races lined up then but I’m worried that most of them might not happen due to the many Covid-19 related challenges,” Khatoane said.
The LNOC has extended its sponsorship contract with four top local athletes in a bid to give them enough room to prepare for the games.
The quartet comprises star sprinter Mosito Lehata, long and triple jump specialist Lerato Sechele, marathoner Seutloali Khoarahlana and middle-distance runner Tšepang Sello.
So far, only Khoarahlana has secured qualification.
He booked his place in the Olympics during last year’s Cape Town Marathon.
Meanwhile, Lesotho’s boxers and taekwondo athletes had already failed to qualify for the games at qualifiers which were held in Senegal and Morocco early in 2020.
The LNOC Head of High Performance Programs Likeleko Lepitla, told this publication that they remain hopeful that more athletes will still qualify.
“There is still a good chance of our athletes under the high performance program to qualify and a chance for Lesotho to be represented by a good number of athletes at the games,” Lepitla said.
She, however, admitted that the impact of the lockdown and Covid-19 in general might be a challenge for the athletes.
“It is hard to say how the athletes have been doing individually especially looking at the fact that games keep getting suspended and travel restrictions imposed. We are very much dependent on South Africa for international travel so when flights to most European countries are suspended it is tough for us to make it to competitions which could be a good stage for qualification,” she said.
The qualifiers are expected to end in June 2021 and Lepitla said there is still time for the athletes especially ones in track and field games to clinch qualification.
The novel coronavirus has left many countries devastated after it broke out in December 2019.
It has left the world economy struggling as thousands of jobs were lost when many businesses were forced to close while sporting activities were suspended in a bid to curb the spread of the pandemic.