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Blow for local athletes

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Leemisa Thuseho

LOCAL athletes have been dealt a body blow after the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) cancelled the 2021 African Senior Athletics Championships this week.

The federation cancelled the event after Nigeria reneged on its decision to host the games that were to be held from 23 to 27 June 2021 in Lagos.

Nigeria authorities said they cannot go ahead as planned due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nigeria withdrawal from hosting came after the country stepped in to host the game last week after the initial hosts Algeria had been struggling to host because of Covid-19 concerns.

The last-minute change is a huge blow to African athletes who were looking forward to using the event as their last qualifying event for the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

Federation of Athletics Lesotho (FAL) secretary general Makara Thibinyane confirmed the developments to this publication this weekend.

He said national federations were informed about the cancellation on Thursday.

“The member federations were only informed about the cancellation yesterday afternoon (Thursday),” Thibinyane said.

“This is bad news considering that other countries had about 16 or more athletes who were preparing for this event.

“It is a huge blow because our athletes were meant to compete against the best in Africa and it is during such events where athletes can meet qualifying standards in their respective disciplines.”

Now that the African Championships have been cancelled, Thibinyane said they would now rely on South African events for qualifications.

Lesotho had four athletes who had qualified for the African Championships namely; Toka Badboy, Lerato Sechele, Mojela Koneshe and ‘Neheng Khatala, who is one of only two athletes who have qualified for the Olympics.

Sechele told the Sunday Express this weekend that she was hurt by the development as she had hoped to secure her Olympics qualification at the now cancelled event.

“The games were not only about competing at the continental level but were an opportunity to qualify for the Olympics.

“I am disappointed because I have been preparing for the event. However, I am not giving up because there are still other events that I can use to qualify. I must just stay focused,” Sechele said.

On his part, Badboy said he was also disappointed as he had been preparing for the event. He was also looking forward to his debut appearance at the event.

“It is dispiriting but I must focus on the upcoming national championships even though chances of making qualifying times while running here at home are slim.

“This is because the level of competition is low and there is no pressure to make good times,” Badboy said.

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