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Triple jump star speaks out

 

TRIPLE jump star, Lerato Sechele, had high hopes of qualifying for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games when she left Lesotho for an Olympic Solidarity scholarship programme in Senegal.

Sechele was one of five athletes who received two-year sponsorships from the Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC) to help them in their preparations for the 2016 Olympic Games and she was enrolled at a high performance training centre in Dakar, Senegal.

However, things did not go according to plan and Sechele’s dream of qualifying for the Olympics was shattered following a string of poor performances.

In this interview with the Sunday Express (SE) Sechele finally explains how she fell from an Junior Africa triple jump champion to just an ordinary athlete.

SE: When you left the country in 2014 you were blazing hot and had just won the Africa Junior Championships in Mauritius in 2013. But ever since you went to Senegal everything seems to have turned upside down. What went wrong?

Sechele: I was one of the top performers when I left Lesotho but unfortunately my performance took a bad turn afterwards.

So many wrong things happened there and you won’t believe it when I say that I was the only female athlete doing triple jump at the centre and the coaching wasn’t good.

SE: You represented the country at the All Africa Games in Congo Brazzaville in 2015 and your performance was not good.  Was it because of the reasons you just gave?

Sechele: I was so disappointed to see my performance dropping but I went to those games already low on confidence. I was even afraid to compete because I could feel that I was not in a good state.

SE:  Were you in contact with the Lesotho Amateur Athletics Association (LAAA) and LNOC and did you inform them about your situation?

Sechele: I alerted them about my situation and every time we talked about it they kept on giving me hope and unfortunately things didn’t work out.

I remember telling them after the All Africa Games that I no longer wanted to go back to Senegal but I was assured that things would get better only to return to the same situation.

I already knew that my biggest challenge was with my technique and I told my coach in Senegal about this. But he wouldn’t listen and he kept reminding me that I was still young and I should stop worrying about that. He rather discouraged instead of helping me.

SE: How did that make you feel considering that when you left Lesotho the aim was to help you qualify for the 2016 Olympics?

Sechele: It was such a painful experience especially as I had missed the Africa Championships that were held in Durban, South Africa early last year which were the last qualifiers for the Olympics.

But I soldiered on and decided not to give up. It was indeed painful but it also taught me to be strong.

I learned it is not always the case that things will go my way but that doesn’t mean I have to throw in the towel but rather work hard and keep focused.

There were other athletes at the centre who were doing well in their disciplines and it always motivated me to see them compete and win.

Even now when I am at home and feeling lazy, I leave the house and hit the gym remembering how other athletes are being treated in Senegal.

The environment is not good for athletes, from the food we ate to how things were conducted. I am happy to be back home and I am focusing on rebuilding my career.

SE: When did you return from Senegal and what have you been doing since then?

Sechele: I returned in July 2016 to my old coach, Reynold Silas. I am preparing for next year’s Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.

SE: And how has it been since you returned?

Sechele: I am impressed with my performance since I returned and I have been working hard. I set a new national record of 12.96 metres breaking Selloane Tšoaeli’s long time record of 12.72. I went further than that when I did 12.98 metres in France early this year.

I will participate in as many competitions as possible in order to qualify for the Commonwealth Games. I am now aiming for 13.00 metres and 13.50 metres next season.

I believe in my coach and he had told me that I can achieve that. I just have to keep on working hard and pushing myself.

I am targeting South African competitions and I think I will participate in three competitions.

It is very important for athletes to gain international exposure and our failure to participate in several competitions is often the cause for our poor performances. Our administrators know that and they often tell us there is no money for us to compete. But they really need to do something about that because every time we get exposed to huge crowds we end up getting stage fright and we end up losing even when it’s not necessary.

SE: You were also supposed to study in Senegal. How that did that go?

Sechele: Yes, I was supposed to go to school but upon my arrival the director of the centre said I should first attend a French school to learn the language since Senegal is a Francophone nation. That was the only school I attended there.

 

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