THE two weightlifters who were supposed to jet off to Tashkent, Uzbekistan yesterday have been dealt a heavy blow. The trip has now been cancelled on account of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 which has so far been recorded in neighbouring South Africa. The duo of Machachamise Ntšinyi and Thapelo Sebota was supposed to travel with coach, Relebohile Motjamela, for the World Weightlifting Championships running from 7 to 17 December 2021 in Uzbekistan.
Since it was first discovered in South Africa last week, several countries across the globe have banned travellers from southern Africa. Among others, on Wednesday Uzbekistan also banned travellers from Hong Kong Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, eSwatini, Tanzania and South Africa.
Lesotho Weightlifting Federation (LWF) secretary general, Bothobile Shebe confirmed the developments to Sunday Express this weekend. “The trip has been cancelled because of the travel ban imposed on Lesotho by Uzbekistan,” Shebe said. “Even if Uzbekistan had not announced the ban, it was still going to be difficult for the team to travel through other countries like Dubai and Hungary, hence the cancellation of the trip.”
The championships will also be used as qualifiers for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games to be held in July and August next year. Having missed this opportunity for athletes to earn points and fight for Commonwealth Games qualifications, Lesotho has one last chance to earn its qualification at the African Championships next February.
“This was an opportunity for our athletes to increase their rankings in their campaign to qualify for the Commonwealth Games. However, we wrote to International World Federations to ask how they are going to address the issue of countries who are missing the missed the championships because of the travelling disruptions. This is beyond anyone’s control,” she said.
The championships were supposed to be followed by the International Weightlifting (IWF) elective congress from 20 to 21 December but Shebe said the congress has now been postponed indefinitely.