Sports

Tsibela’s journey looks upbeat

Mohloai Mpesi

Manqabang Tsibela appeared in a total of eleven international competitions, bagging eight gold medals, one silver and two bronze medals.

She was born at Ha Long, Mantšonyane in Thaba-Tseka district.

Tsibela started her education at Lihloaeleng Primary School in 2011 and completed her grade 7 last year, then she proceeded to Masowe High School in Mohale’s Hoek where she is doing her grade 8.

The 15-year old athlete found her muscles’ flexing in the 800m, 1,500m and 3000m sporting disciplines.

She started running in 2014 when she was in grade 3, showing her mettle at the annual Memorial Marathon held at Mantšonyane in the 5km category where she grabbed her first gold medal.

Her second gold medal was at the National Athletic games held at Setsoto Stadium the same year.

The starlet became a pride of Ha Long village in 2015 when she bagged two gold medals in the 3000m and 1,500m in her first appearance in the Confederation of School Sport Association in Southern Africa (COSSASA) staged in Lesotho.

She speaks soft expressing gratitude for her support.

“I am very happy because I never thought that I would be the one representing my country.”

“My friends are happy for me and they always tell me to keep working hard and never be discouraged by other people,” she says.

Born of Mmamoroa and the late Lekhotla Tsibela, the athlete won a silver medal the following year in the 1,500m race and a gold medal in the 3000m race in 2016 COSSASA games staged in Namibia, before bagging two gold medals in the same year at the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 under-20 Youth games which were staged in Botswana.

“I have always loved running and our teachers always made sure we do what they tell us to do,” she says.

It was the beginning of the youngster’s hoodoo of winning streak as she came on the top side of the AUSC Region 5 U20 Games held in Angola 2016; 1,500m (Gold), 3000m (Gold).

Tsibela broke the COSSASA Botswana 2018 record beating the old record of 4:58.50, clocking 4:26.26 in the 1,500m, and also bypassing the 800m record of 2:12.08 with a new record of 2:09.50.

However, the COSSASA eSwatini 2019 bronze medallist was not born under the lucky start.

Raised by a single parent following the death of her father, she narrates that her upbringing was not an easy sail as she had to walk 15 km to and from school every day. But, the long distance played a vital role in her career.

She notes that the 15km she would beat by running because often she woke up late.

“I used to walk four hours to and from school. I had to go to school at 04:00hrs in the morning to make the 8am school time even during winter seasons. My mother would at times escort me halfway in fear of the unknown.

“The long distance toughened me because I used to run to school sometimes when I woke up late. It took me two hours to make it to school on some times and that is where the tenacity was groomed,” she continues.

The 2017 Lesotho Annual Sports Awards (LASA) Junior Female Sportsperson of the year brought change in her family with money earned from the competitions.

The athlete explained that during her journey, she met challenges as her mother could not allow her to participate in sport due to the belief that she will not have children.   

“There were rumours in my village that I will not conceive when I am engaged in athletics and that scared my mother, for some time I was not allowed to participate in sports at all,” she narrates adding teachers had to intervene and summoned her mother to school.

“My teachers explained that the rumours were as such and nothing but myths.”

She has a strong support base which includes the support team which rallied behind her 2017 LASA New Comer of the year comprises and those include, Malitsietsi Zwakala (sponsor organiser), Sam Seboka, Thabiso Moqhali, Baba Malephane, Mathabo Rathebe, Mofihli Makoele, Chris Bullock, Lali Lali, All 4 One.

She is also supported by Dethlon Company, France based company which is mandated to support the athlete in all her needs throughout her professional career.

A member of the support team, who is Kick4Life Football Director, Chris Bullock, stated that Lesotho has talent but lacks resources, outlining that he was touched by the young girl’s passion despite limited resources at her disposal.     

“Six years ago when I arrived here I noticed that this country has a lot of talent but limited resources,” he said.

He added, “I was in Botswana last December and I saw Manqabang coming on the top side of the race. I was touched when I saw her finishing the race bare foot.

“She has a very special talent and we have to support her, even if the government and other stakeholders do not have enough money to support her.

“This is a long term project,” he said.

Bullock further indicated that he hoped to see the young athlete in the 2024 Olympics to be staged in France.

“We want to see her progress in the next tournaments.”

Tsibela became the first Mosotho nominee to make it to the Regional Annual Sports Awards (RASA) Top 3 finalists group last year in Namibia.

She also won the 2019 Lesotho Annual Sports Awards (LASA) Junior Female Sportsperson of the year accolade in the third edition of the awards, where the winning athletes have not been given their prize monies.

All4One Sports spokesperson, ‘Maboitumelo Mokotjo, also emphasised the importance of discipline in sports, stating that the 800m and 1,500m record holder will run miles should she maintain her disciplined disposition.

“I am the one who gave her an award last year (at LASA), I took an initiative to talk to All4One Sport and support her because I realised how much she is talented,” Mokotjo said.

“We want to make Tsibela our brand. Wherever you see All 4 One sport, her picture will always be displayed.

“The most important issue is discipline, she will achieve or destroy everything on her way because of her behaviour, if she continues to behave well we will support her,” she said.

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