By Khosi Pheko
Lesotho’s renowned female marathon runner, Neheng Khatala is still optimistic of securing a coveted spot at next year’s Olympics games to be staged in Paris, France.
Khatala has had a year to forget which was coupled by a number of setbacks which keep delaying her Olympics dream. She was among the athletes which were stripped off the Olympic Paris 2024 solidarity scholarship by the Lesotho Sports and Recreation Commission (LSRC) in what was described as unethical behaviour earlier in January. A month later in February, she had to pull out of the 42km Seville Marathon after just completing 25km due to illness.
She then had a moment of respite in March after she prevailed at the 10km Durban International Marathon. As she hoped to build from the Durban victory, she fell once again at the 2023 Amsterdam Marathon (42.2 km) in Netherlands last month (October). She finished out of the top 10 settling for a position 13 where she clocked at 2:28:54. This Marathon was also highly regarded as one of the pre-qualification events for the Olympic Games. To qualify, Khatala had to finish the race at a standard time of 2:26:50 or less but only fell shortly at 2:28:54.
While speaking with the Informative Newspaper, she said she will not give up on her quest to join her male counterpart, Tebello Ramokanaka who has secured his Paris spot in September this year. She said failing to qualify in the previous race is a disappointment but will not allow it to distract her focus to the ultimate goal. She mentioned that, she is hard at work to prepare for her last qualifying race which will be held oversees and all the details shall be confirmed in due time.
“I am not discouraged because I still have one more chance to qualify. Maybe my mood will be dampened if I fail yet again but for now I am confident that I will qualify. I qualified in the last race last time but it is not ideal for me to always qualify in the last minutes. I will be competing oversees next year but I am yet to confirm where and when it shall be hosted,” she said.
She also said next year is not far as it may seem but it gives her more time to prepare as it requires a lot for her to be in perfect condition. She added she also has a few races lined up before the end of this year as she prepares for the big one next year.
“Next year is not far away, it requires a lot of time to prepare and be in top shape. I will participate in a few local races before the year ends being the 10 km and 21km as preparation”, Khatala said.