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Taekwondo faces another heartbreak

Teboho Molapo

MASERU — Lesotho taekwondo’s stars could miss out on the 2010 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in August, if the country fails to take part in the upcoming World Youth Taekwondo Championships.
The three-day World Youth Championships are part of a weeklong taekwondo gala in Mexico — from March 3-9 — and will be preceded by a three-day Youth Olympics qualification tournament which runs from March 3 to 5.
However, lack finances could see Lesotho failing to send athletes to the Games.
Last week, Lesotho Taekwondo Federation’s public relations officer Moshoeshoe Mokake revealed the country’s involvement at the YOG hinges on participating in a global championship, as per rules set by the International Taekwondo Federation (LTF).
The LTF are awaiting a response from the Lesotho Sport and Recreation Commission (LSRC) whether the money needed to finance the Mexico trip would be available.
“As part of the agreement with the International (Taekwondo) Federation, participants at the Youth Olympics need to have taken part in at least one world event. That is why we are pushing for this trip to be a success, otherwise we could find ourselves unable to participate,” Mokake said.
“I cannot really say (whether we will be denied the spots) but the regulations are very clear. We will have to cross that bridge when we get to it.”
Lesotho has two places reserved at the YOG — to be held in Singapore — as part of the International Olympic Committee’s national universality places scheme, which seeks to give all countries the chance to participate at the first Youth Olympics.
Taekwondo is one of eight disciplines Lesotho is eligible to compete in at the Youth Olympics — the others being athletics, boxing, swimming, tennis, table-tennis and basketball.
Taekwondo Lesotho’s two spots have been set aside for female athletes because of their superior performance compared to male competitors in international tournaments over the past eight years.
But a lack of finances could once again scupper Lesotho’s hopes.
Last November, Lesotho was unable to participate in the inaugural African Youth Championships in Tunisia because of a lack of funds.
“We have submitted the budget to the sports commission and by tomorrow, we should have their decision. The trip itself is expensive; it exceeds our budget. We will have to see how we will make-up the (additional) amount,” Mokake said on Wednesday.
Along with the two female athletes, the LTF had aimed to send two boys to Mexico to see whether they can qualify for the Youth Olympics as well.
But it appears these plans will have to be shelved because of the lack of funds.
“We were looking at the possibility of sending two boys as well but we are over our budget. The athletes (who will be chosen) were training for the African Youth Championships but when that did not happen, they were disbanded and sent back to their respective teams,” Mokake said.
Meanwhile, the LSRC chief executive officer, Kholoang Mokalanyane on Friday confirmed they had received the request, but said he could not promise anything.
“I only received the thing today so I cannot comment too much on it,” Mokalanyane said. “The problem is they have submitted the request late. I can’t promise anything.” 
Lesotho was invited to the World Youth Taekwondo Championships at the beginning of the month.

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