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Olympic qualification hope for Lesotho boxers


Leemisa Thuseho

THERE is still hope for Lesotho boxers to qualify for the Tokyo 2021 Olympics despite the cancelling of the final qualifiers, national team coach Hopolang Mabele has said.

The qualifiers were originally scheduled for May 2020 in Paris but were postponed to June this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This week, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Boxing Task Force (BTF) announced the cancelling of the qualifiers because of Covid-19-induced travel restrictions.

The task force has instead decided that the 53 quota places (32 men and 21 women) that were up for grabs be allocated equally across continents on the basis of world rankings for boxers who were yet to qualify for the Olumpics.

Lesotho boxers failed to qualify at continental level last year and the world qualifiers were their last hope.

Lesotho is preparing Tlholohelo Mokhesi, Moroke Mokhotho, Qhobosheane Mohlerepe, Mokhachane Moshoeshoe and Arena Pakela for the Olympics.

While admitting that the cancelling of the final world qualifiers was a blow for countries with lowly ranked boxers, Mabele said there was still hope that some of his boxers will qualify given that some boxers from Africa have already qualified. This is likely to influence the slot allocation method with some of the best ranked boxers already qualified, he said.

“We are not yet sure who will qualify because we are still waiting for reports from our international association on how exactly new allocation method is going to work,” Mabele said.

“It was not easy for us to improve our rankings because we were unable to attend some of the highly rated tournaments.

“We must however, stay positive… because there are boxers from the continent who have already qualified and are ranked above our boxers. It is clear that they will not be considered for the positions that are up for grabs.”

He said there was a high possibility for qualification for qualification given that his best boxer in the 75kg category, Pakela, is ranked 17th globally and fourth in Africa.

Mabele said the cancellation of the final word qualifiers was announced when they were already preparing five boxers to the event.

“We wanted to go to the final qualifying event and challenge with all five boxers… the preparations were already underway and we had already submitted our budget to the Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC).”

Lesotho is still hoping to qualify through tripartite commission invitation channel. Tripartite places are given to countries that have failed to qualify for the Olympics.

Due to Covid-19 induced challenges among them the suspension of sports, Mabele said he was still working with the boxers remotely.

He is however, worried that even if other sports are allowed to resume, boxing was likely to be the last to be allowed because it is an extreme contact sport

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