THE last edition of our sister paper, the Lesotho Times carried a story under the headline Lehata could return to Mauritius camp.
For a moment, I was shocked by this developments when I saw that headline as many had thought that the South African stable which produced the top athletes such as world and Olympic 400 metre champion, Wade Van Niekerk would be good for Lehata.
The 29-year-old runner was on an Olympic Solidarity Scholarship programme in Mauritius since 2012 which ended in 2014. It was later extended by two years and ended in 2016 after the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
He was then last year afforded another scholarship which saw him being placed at the University of Free State Sports Science Institute under the watchful eye of Ans Botha for another four years which end in 2020.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go as smoothly as expected for the Matsieng born sprinter and apparently he has asked to be taken back to Mauritius.
I must admit that I understand Lehata’s frustration because he looked like one athlete who had so much potential a few years back when he reached the Commonwealth Games 200 metres final in 2014 where he finished fourth.
I read the interview where my colleague, Mikia Kalati, talked to Lesotho National Olympic (LNOC) vice Secretary Letsatsi Ntsibolane.
Although Ntsibolane didn’t want to get into full details on why Lehata wanted to go back to Mauritius, it was all clear for everyone to see that the athlete was struggling in South Africa. He has also confirmed it to me in one interview.
I am aware that at the moment, Lehata might be our best sprinter based on the experience he boasts as he has competed in different competitions all over Europe but I also think it is time the LNOC shifted its focus to upcoming athletes to ensure continuity.
The truth of the matter is that age is now catching up with Lehata and he has only a few years to offer. It is common knowledge that as one ages, they also become slower so we need to start to look beyond him.
He has played his part and I think new athletes also need a chance so that we see what they can offer.
Such athletes as Khereng Khereng and Koneshe Mojela look very promising and they are the individuals we should be worried about as a country and ensure that they get a chance to also conquer the world, they also need to gain experience as they have the potential to be the next biggest findings in the country’s athletics.
I respect Lehata for what he has given to this country but I also think it is time that we start thinking beyond him. There are numerous other athletes yearning for opportunities.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics may be his last big competition so we a plan at hand so that by the time he retires, we have younger sprinters to take the mantle.