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Salas vows never to work with LAAA for free

Moorosi Tsiane

CUBAN athletics coach Reynold Salas has cleared the air on how he deserted triple jumper Lerato Sechele just before she left for the Gold Coast Australia Commonwealth Games in April this year.

In recent weeks counter accusations have flown between the Lesotho Amateur Athletic Association (LAAA) and the Lesotho National Olympics Committee over the refusal to renew Salas’ contract when it expired when.

In the Sunday Express 12 to 19 August edition we carried a story headlined LNOC, LAAA play blame game in which the two organisations blamed each other for Salas’s departure despite his great work in assisting Sechele and other athletes.

In the earlier story, LNOC chief executive officer Morake Raleaka said they had not renewed Salas’ contract because the LAAA had indicated that they no longer needed to work with him as they had their own coaches.

In the same article LAAA spokesperson Sejanamane Maphathe refutes the claims and says instead that it was the LNOC who decided not to renew the coach’s contract for their own reasons.

And Salas who was at the time on holiday in his native country recently told this publication that the LAAA is to be blamed for the fallout.

Salas arrived in the country a decade ago under a memorandum of understating between Lesotho and Cuba.

He was assigned to work with the LAAA where he produced athletes such sprinting duo of Lekhotso Letlala and Thakane Mapoho who competed in the 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympic Games. He helped the country send seven athletes for that year’s edition of the games.

The Cuban has also worked with the likes of Mosito Lehata and Selloane Tšoaeli.

Salas has worked for a long time with Sechele until she was transferred to a high-performance centre in Dakar, Senegal. However, her performance dropped drastically while she was in Senegal and it was Salas who came to her rescue when she returned.

Her performance improved and went on to set new records and won several competitions in the region.

However, Salas eventually deserted the athlete just a month before her departure for the Gold Coast Australia Commonwealth Games.

“People have been given the impression that I was fighting for LAAA per diem but that is not the truth. The truth is that I felt these people (LAAA) were not appreciating me enough because I was always the one who was working hard with the athletes but at the end of the day when they went to competitions I was left out and they travelled with a different coach.

“When that athlete performed well the coach who would have travelled with the athlete to the competition is the one who would get all the credit and I found that unfair. The worst part is that I no longer had a contract with the LNOC so I was helping Lerato out of my good will. The least that the LAAA could have done was to show some appreciation,” Salas said.

When Salas’ contract with the government in 2014, the LNOC offered him a one-year contract which entailed that he would continue working with the LAAA in a talent identification programme from 2014 to 2015.

When the one-year contract ended it was extended by a further year by the LNOC under their high-performance office as a high-performance specialist. The contract ended in 2016 and he has been working with Machabeng College from then teaching Physical Education and Spanish.

“I knew that LNOC would not renew my contract because of LAAA politics but I kept on working with sprinter Mojela Koneshe and Sechele because I did not want to let them down after the hard work that we had put in.

“I have been using my own resources to help the athletes because the LAAA did not want to spend money on them. However, there comes a point in life where one feels it is enough so I could not take it anymore. All the politics was giving me was a headache and nothing else.”

He said through his assistance the LAAA has been getting close to US$20 000 annually since 2013 from the International Association of Athletics Federations after they got an award from that year.

“Since my arrival, I was have helped athletes perform better in different competitions. Sechele has won two youth championships, Tšoaeli also won gold in All Africa Games when. All this was because of my job at the world championships held in Korea in 2013 where Lesotho received an award from the IAAF which has increased the funds sent to Lesotho from US$16 000 to around US$20 000 annually.

“But the association does not want to help the athletes so they are misusing that money. We have athletes who are already in Olympic Solidarity scholarships that say the LNOC have met them half way so why are they not using this money to support other upcoming athletes and send them to different competitions all over the world? What they are only doing is to hold tournaments here because that is cheaper. They get money from the IAAF and more from the LSRC and all of it is being misused.

“I have worked with Mosito, Lerato and Selloane but whenever they have excelled I got left out. I have worked with the LAAA for a decade so I know how they operate. The last time I got the LAAA’s support was back in the days of Mokebe Maketela as the president around 2007 or 2008. That is also when I started working with Sechele, Selloane and Mosito but since Maketela left, things have changed.

“Cuban coaches were also instrumental in 2011 when two athletes won medals at the All Africa Games in Maputo. However, at the welcome reception of that team held at the Convention Centre, none of the speakers appreciated our effort. Despite the lack of appreciation, I have continued working until I decided it was enough early this year,” Salas said.

Salas said the country has abundant talent but the problem is poor administration.

“There is so much talent in this country but I just feel sorry for the athletes because people who are supposed to be helping them do not care about them. Apart from Sechele, Selloane and Mosito, there were also athletes who showed a lot of potential whom I worked with at Setsoto Stadium but some would miss sessions because they did not have transport and the LAAA did not care about that.

“The reason for which some of the corporates refuse to invest in sport is because of maladministration. I remember at one point I approached different companies sourcing sponsorship for the athletes that I was working with and I was told in my face that they would not give us money because people in sports administration were abusing funds monies and I knew it was the truth,” Salas said.

Asked what is the way forward from here, Salas said he will never work for free for people who do not appreciate him.

“One thing that I can tell you is that had I travelled with Lerato to Gold Coast she could have won a medal and from this Senior Championship in Nigeria last month I was expecting a gold medal from her but she won bronze. It is sad that I had to leave her but the LAAA politics forced me out. I will never work for these people for free because they do not appreciate me,” Salas said.

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