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Lack of funds threatens athletics strategic plan

Teboho Molapo
MASERU — The Lesotho Amateur Athletics Association’s (LAAA) preparations for the 2012 Olympic Games have been hamstrung by financial constraints and the organisation’s strategic plan drawn-up last March remains unimplemented.
Last weekend, Selloane Tšoaeli became Lesotho’s first athlete to qualify for the 2010 African Senior Championships scheduled for Nairobi, Kenya from July 28 to August 1.
But with the LAAA struggling to raise funds, the prospects for the local athletes look bleak.
Tšoaeli, a heptathlete, booked her place at the championships after surpassing the 4 900 points qualifying benchmark set by the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF).
The heptathlon event consists of seven disciplines namely the 100m hurdles, 200m and 800m races, javelin, shot-put, long-jump and high-jump. Tšoaeli is ranked second in Africa and first in the southern African region in heptathlon but it is unclear if she will get the preparation she needs for the championships.
“Our aim was to get at least one of our athletes to the semi-finals of their events at the 2012 Olympics but for that to happen the athletes should have already begun their preparations,” Sejanamane Mapathe, the LAAA’s public relations officer said on Friday.
The LAAA wanted to send a group of elite athletes to the High Performance Centre in Pretoria as part of the preparations but this is unlikely to happen. In 2007, each athlete had to pay M21 000 a year to be at the centre.
“We get less than M200 000 (per year from the Sports Commission); the costs involved are just too high for us and we have been unable to cope,” Mapathe says.
Tšoaeli is one of five local athletes — the others being Mosito Lehata, Tsehla Monethi, Ramolefi Motsielo and Jobo Khatoane — who are hoping to qualify for the African Senior Championships and October’s Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India.
They are participating in the three-part 2010 Yellow Pages Series in South Africa, which began in Port Elizabeth on February 19.
The second leg was in Durban last Friday while Potchefstroom will host the final part on March 4.
While Mapathe insists the athletes “are promising”, he is worried about lack of preparation.
“If they can compete regularly, then they will qualify. The problem is that they are still at school. This should be the time when they are training but they cannot. It’s dangerous,” Mapathe says.
This means Lesotho’s overall strength in track-and-fields events, which require specialised training, remains poor.
However, Mapathe pointed to the country’s marathon runners who have improved their times over the years, as examples of the high standards that can be reached in local athletics.
“A few years ago, our athletes were running 2 hours 23 minutes. To get below 2 hours 20 minutes was a great achievement, but now our runners find it easy. Last year, Mabuthile (Lepobo), Moeketsi (Mosuhli) and Tsotang (Maine) all ran 2 hours 14 minutes,” Mapathe says.

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