MASERU — Lesotho athletes say they are ready to make the country proud when they participate in the prestigious Soweto Marathon this morning.
Ten Basotho athletes are set to compete in the race.
The athletes are: ‘Mamoroallo Tjoka, Lebenya Nkoka, Mabuthile Lebopo, Warinyane Lebopo, Teboho Sello, Moeketsi Mosuhli, Motlokoa Nkhabutlane, Tsotang Maine, Mpesela Ntlotsoeu and Tiisetso Ramokheseng.
They will be among hundreds of athletes from across the continent vying for honours at the race.
But given their history, it is possible that a Mosotho could lift the top honours in Soweto to consolidate the country’s reputation as serious contenders on the athletics scene.
Among those being tipped to lift the title is defending champion, ‘Mamoroallo Tjoka, who has been nicknamed the “Queen of Soweto”.
Tjoka has won the marathon a record five times.
Compatriot Nkoka, is also tipped to do well as he has always been in the Top 10 since 2004.
Nkoka won the marathon in the men’s category last year.
“We are leaving today (Saturday) and we promise Basotho and all our supporters that we will emerge winners as always,” Nkoka said on Friday.
“I have just recovered from a bout of flu but I am certain that we will bring the medals home, even if it is not through me.”
Mabuthile is also a possible winner having won the marathon twice in 2004 and 2009 with a personal best of 2:13:42.
Lebopo also won the 2010 Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon last year and is being tipped to do well this morning.
Fellow countryman Sello also won Soweto Marathon in 2007 and finished second last year.
He came a respectable third at the Two Oceans Marathon last year.
Mosuhli is another potential medal winner after he finished in the top five in the Two Oceans Marathon and fourth at the 2010 Soweto Marathon.
“There is nothing miraculous with us going to compete in the Soweto Marathon on Sunday (today) because we all know Lesotho is going to bring glory back home,” Sello said.
“We’ve trained and prepared ourselves both physically and mentally and we are ready to defend our title,” he said.
Mosuhli won the race in 2008 and has a marathon best of 2:14:03 which he ran in Durban in 2008.
But if the truth be told, it will not be a walk in the park for Lesotho.
Besides other top athletes from across the continent, hosts South Africa are pinning their hopes on former national marathon champion, Coolboy Ngamole.
Ngamole has a marathon personal best of 2:14:29 which he ran at the national championships in George this year.
Ngamole will be tested especially in the latter half of the race which is predominantly uphill.
Zimbabwe’s Moses Njodzi is also a dangerman having won the Two Oceans Ultra in 2006 and finishing third at the 2009 City to City Marathon.
Russian twins Oelysa and Elena Nurgileva, known for running side by side, are expected to give our local “Queen of Soweto” some fierce competition.
Tjoka will also face tough competition from Zimbabwe’s Samukeliso Moyo who has for the past years given her a torrid time.