Mokulubete Makatisi’s athletics dream was nearly shattered after she was forced to return home from South Africa in January this year due to study permit problems.
The runner had been studying at Bloemfontein Trompsburg Secondary School for two years and training under a professional coach when she was forced to return home after failing to renew her study permit.
However, the 20-year-old told the Sunday Express she had put this disappointment behind her and was glad that her athletics career remains on track.
“Why do I have to cry over something I have no control over? I admit it was painful that I lost a great opportunity to stay in Bloemfontein where I was exposed to abundant athletics resources, but I have since moved on; it is now water under the bridge and I have made peace with it. I am now working with a new coach as I prepare for the All-Africa Games to be held in Brazzaville in September this year,” said Makatisi, who specialises in 1500-metre, 5000-m and 10-kilometre races.
Born in a rural village called Lesobeng in Thaba-Tseka district, Makatisi did her primary education at Lesobeng, where she graduated in 2010. She enrolled for Form A at Mapholaneng the following year before moving to Bloemfontein in 2012.
Yet Makatisi only realised in 2010 that she could earn a living out of her God-given talent.
“I have always been fond of athletics and at first, I was running for fun. But when I was selected to represent my district in a national competition being held at Setsoto Stadium in 2010, where I was picked for the Lesotho team that went to Botswana the same year, I realised that I could actually earn a living out of athletics. It was then that my interest in the sport grew and I started to take it seriously,” she said.
The first born in a family of five, Makatisi said she was inspired by long-distance runner ‘Mamoroallo Tjoka and South Africa’s Caster Semenya to make athletics her chosen sport.
“I wanted to be like Caster and ‘Mamoroallo; these two great personalities really inspired me and I would want to emulate their achievements and if possible, go even further.”
Makatisi believes Thaba-Tseka’s high altitude played a crucial role in making her the athlete that she is.
“I grew up in a rural area, which is also very cold and mountainous. I believe these conditions helped to shape me and give me an edge over those who grew up in urban areas,” she said.
Makatisi, who is staying in Leqele, said she was now targeting next month’s Congo-Brazzaville Games where success would help fulfill her dreams of qualifying for the 2016 Olympics to be held in Brazil.
“We all have dreams in life and I believe we can achieve them if we try hard enough. I think what matters is what we do to get close to our dreams, and for me, that is training hard and remaining focused.
“I represented my country in last year’s World Junior Championships held in the United States of America which is one of the highlights of my career so far, but I want to achieve more and not just being part of the national team.”
Last week, Makatisi was presented with M10 000 for excelling at last year’s African Union Sports Council Region 5 Games held in Zimbabwe where she won a gold medal in the 1500-metre race and bronze in the 3000 and 5000 metres, respectively.
“I’m satisfied with how I did in last year’s event and hopefully, I will take that performance to this year’s All-Africa Games. In addition, I would like to thank our government for fulfilling their promise of rewarding us after the Games.”
According to Makatisi, incentives motivate athletes and says she hopes the money she was given would push her fellow athletes to do better.
“It gives us motivation to see our government rallying behind us and giving us these incentives. I believe they will even drive those who did not do well to push themselves harder the next time we go for competitions,” said Makatisi.
Qualifying for next year’s Olympic Games would also be a way to thank her parents who have been very supportive of her, said Makatisi.
“Local sport is still very amateur and many parents want their children to focus more on their studies. However, mine have been very supportive of my athletics career from Day One, so qualifying for the Olympics would fulfill the promise I made to them.”
However, Makatisi lamented the amateur status of Lesotho athletics.
“I stayed in South Africa for about two years and believe me, there is a huge difference on how athletes are treated here and in South Africa. In South Africa, they have first-class facilities for training and the athletes are always monitored to see their progress and where they might need help. In addition, there are so many competitions in South Africa which helps the athletes stay in shape while here at home, we hardly get such luxury.”
Makatisi further said Lesotho’s educational system does not accommodate athletes, which she said was also a problem.
“For instance, we are supposed to go into camp for the All-Africa Games but we have students in the team who can’t be with us because of school commitments. I think our education system has to be designed in a way that it accommodates athletes so that we don’t find ourselves in a position where we have to choose between education and the sport.”
Asked if she still harboured ambitions to be based in South Africa, Makatisi said: “Well, I am home now; I have been focusing on athletics since January, I have a good coach in ntate Chaplin Mpomane. I want to forget about what happened but the aim is still to go back to school and finish my studies. Hopefully, that will be next year.”
Makatisi has advise for youngsters who might want to pursue sport as a career.
“You must accept that every day brings something new and respect what you are doing if you really want to come out best.”
Name: Mokulubete Makatisi
Date of birth: 1 September 1995
Place of birth: Lesobeng Thaba-Tseka
Honours: Winner-10km Zululand and 10km Harry Gwala race; gold and silver medals in the 5 000m and 1 500 at the South African Open Championship held in Potchefstroom, SA; Gold in 1500m, bronze in 3000 and 5000m at 2014 AUSC Games.
Favorite meal: samp and chicken
Dream car: Toyota Hilux Legend 45
Role model: ‘Mamoroallo Tjoka.
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