MASERU — Lesotho is merely participating and not competing in international tournaments, the Lesotho Taekwondo Federation’s spokesperson Mojatela Mefane has said.
Earlier this month, Lesotho took part in the 8th World Youth Taekwondo Championships held in Mexico from March 3-9.
However, Lesotho’s duo of Lineo Mochobane and Kholu Pasane were knocked out in the first round by opponents from Chinese Taipei and Venezuela.
Later this year, the two are expected take part in the first Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, where Lesotho has two places reserved as part of the International Olympic Committee’s national universality places scheme.
However, Mefane admitted the performance in Mexico was disappointing.
“We didn’t perform well. To do well is to come back victors. At the moment we are just participating and not competing,” Mefane said on Monday.
“We are being left behind because our athletes don’t get enough international exposure,” he said.
The country’s performance in taekwondo has dropped alarmingly in recent years, and Lesotho’s participation in this year’s youth championships was its first since 2000.
The last time Lesotho brought home medals from the event was at its first edition in 1996, when Likeleli Thamae won gold, while Puleng Nala and Poloko Ntulo clinched silver and bronze respectively.
Meanwhile, Mefane insisted there was promise in the sport’s development structures, pointing to the youthful ages of Mochobane, 15, and Pasane, 16.
“Our team (of Mochobane and Pasane) is good. They are still at a good age. I’m encouraged that the government has seen the importance of development and the Vision 2020 Games which are held annually in Roma, for example, have helped us a lot,” Mefane said.
“We hope the (Lesotho) Olympic Committee and the Sports Commission will take the responsibility to strengthen the team now before the athletes go to Singapore,” he said.
Lack of funds has been a major reason taekwondo has fallen from the heights it enjoyed at the turn of the century when it was arguably Lesotho’s foremost sport.
“At the moment, we are only able to take part in one international tournament a year. We are still on a mission to search for sponsors because at the moment our only sponsor is the government. In the past years, our budget was roughly M500 000 per year but now it is M200 000,” Mefane said.