LONG distance runner, Khoarahlane Seutloali, and his wife, Neheng, will be Lesotho’s only representatives at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics later this month.
The Olympics will run from 23 July to 8 August 2021.
Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC) vice president finance, Letsatsi Ntsibolane, said the duo were the only two local athletes to qualify for the games.
Neheng was the latest to secure a ticket to the games after clocking 2:28:06 to win the Retail Capital Langa Marathon in Cape Town in May this this year. Her husband had already qualified at the 2019 Cape Town Marathon where he clocked 2:11:04.
He said they will travel with their coach, Andrew Booyens. Others who will travel to Tokyo are Ntsibolane as Chef De Mission, Likeleko Lepitla (team administrator), Anatole Mayema (team doctor) and Lebohang Khomari (Covid-19 Liaison Officer).
Lesotho will also have soccer assistant referee, Souru Phatšoane, at the games.
Neheng will compete on the 7 August while her husband will take to the field a day later on 8 August.
Despite the games’ opening ceremony being on the 23 July, Ntsibolane said the two athletes will only arrive in Tokyo on the 29 July 2021.
“The athletes’ coaches suggested that they should arrive in Tokyo close to their respective competitions’ dates,” said Ntsibolane.
“Arriving earlier could interfere with their training programmes because they will be forced to stay in the athletes’ village, thus they will not be allowed to go out for sessions until the race day,” he added.
Having just two representatives is a disappointment for Lesotho. At the previous Rio Olympics in Brazil, Lesotho was represented by eight athletes.
Meanwhile, Olympic organizers said on Thursday that they would bar spectators from most events at the Games scheduled to open in two weeks, a decision that followed the declaration of a new state of emergency in Tokyo in response to a sudden spike in coronavirus cases.
Officials had long insisted that they can hold the Tokyo Games safely amid a pandemic. Last month, they announced that they would allow domestic spectators at the events despite public fears that the Games could become a petri dish for new variants of the virus.
Now, the virus has again wreaked havoc on the planning by Olympic organizers, who gathered in an emergency meeting on Thursday night to decide how to respond to the latest challenge of a pandemic that had already delayed the Games by a year.
The announcement came only hours before the Olympic torch was set to begin the last — and long-delayed — leg of its trip through Japan. Officials decided this week that there would be almost no actual running during its two-week perambulation through Tokyo and its suburbs, replacing the marathon with a series of ceremonies that would be closed to the public.
Addressing reporters on Thursday night, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga acknowledged the challenge the country faced as the more contagious Delta variant had begun to circulate. He warned about the danger of the virus spreading beyond Tokyo as people traveled home for the summer holidays.
But at the same time, Mr. Suga pledged to deliver an Olympic Games that would go down in history not as another victim of the pandemic, but as an example of fortitude in the face of adversity.
Viewers will be tuning in from around the world, he said, and “I want to transmit to them a message from Tokyo about overcoming hardship with effort and wisdom.”
The bar for achieving that goal moved even higher on Wednesday, when Tokyo reported 920 new coronavirus infections, the highest number since May, when the case count briefly rose over 1000.
The state of emergency announced on Thursday will start on Monday and be in effect for the duration of the Olympics, which begin on July 23. It is the fourth time that Tokyo has been put under a state of emergency since the beginning of the pandemic.
The most recent one began in late April, and most restrictions were lifted by the end of June. Tokyo has since been under a quasi-emergency that was set to be lifted next Sunday. Additional reporting by nytimes