Lesotho Amateur Athletics Association Public Relations Officer, Sejanamane Maphathe, has expressed concern at the lack of interest by local runners in the Rio de Janeiro scholarships.
Motebong Tourism Investment Holdings last month unveiled a M650 000 sponsorship to help 10 marathon-runners prepare for next year’s Olympics to be held in the Brazilian city of Rio.
The athletes are supposed to hold a month-long camp every three months at Motebong Village in Ha Lejone, Leribe district, until the games begin in August 2016.
However, Maphathe on Thursday told the Sunday Express that the camps, which were set to start this month, could not go ahead because only six people had applied for the scholarships so far.
“The programme was supposed to start this month but only six people, namely Thabo Ntlaloe, Motlokoa Nkhabutlane, Tšepo Ramonene, Lineo Chaka, Ntebaleng Letšela and ‘Makampong Masaile, have applied. But because the number has got to be 10, the camp could not go ahead as expected. This is very worrying because the sponsorship is there but there is no will among the athletes,” Maphathe said.
Asked what could be the reason behind this apathy, Maphathe said: “I can’t really say, but I think it is because most of our athletes are in the twilight of their careers; they are in their mid-30s, so they don’t believe they will still be competitive when the Olympics get underway next year.
“Those who have applied are between 25 and 30, so we have this challenge of not having enough juniors.”
Maphathe lamented the delayed camps, which he said would “definitely affect the scholarship programme”.
He added: “The athletes have to qualify for the Olympics and the sooner they do so, the better. But due to the camps’ delay, the runners are going to qualify late, thereby affecting their training programmes.
“However, you cannot force people into something they are not interested in because to represent the nation, one needs to be very committed and patriotic.
“The other thing is the athletes need to be screened by the Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC) before they can go on this programme, which might present us with further delays.”