Mafata basks in glory
SHE was so confident of her form Moleboheng Mafata insists not even the legendary ‘ Mamoroallo Tjoka could have beaten her to the 2015 High Altitude Summer Marathon crown last Saturday.
Mafata (29) beat a strong and determined field of competitors to win the grueling race in Mokhotlong and claim the M100 000 top prize — the biggest purse of her athletics career.
Tjoka, who has been Lesotho’s top female marathoner over the past decade, could not be part of the race following her two-year ban for failing a dope-test after winning the High Altitude Summer Marathon last year.
However, Mafata was adamant this week not even the ‘Marathon Queen’, as Tjoka is affectionately known, could have stopped her from winning Lesotho’s most prestigious long-distance race at the weekend.
Mafata, who beat compatriots Makampong Masaile and Nteboheleng Lesenya into second and third place respectively, says she is in the form of her life and would soon make the country forget about Tjoka.
“It has been a long journey, but I could feel before the race that my time had finally come,” Mafata said.
“Credit should go to my coach (marathon legend Ntate Thabiso Moqhali) who has really made me a better athlete. I am very happy that my hard work has finally paid off and now I will be able to pay school-fees for my siblings because I am the breadwinner since my parents are all late.”
Mafata also said this was the first time she had won such a huge amount of money in her athletics career.
“I have come close on a number of occasions and I must say competing with the likes of Tjoka has really made me a better runner,” said Mafata.
“We had become great rivals, winning some races against her, but I feel this is my time and there is no going back. I feel I could have won the race on Saturday even if she was there because I am in great form.
“I have a good coach by my side and the plan is to be part of the team that will represent the country at the Olympic Games in Brazil next year.
“I was very inspired when I took part in last year’s Commonwealth Games in Scotland although I didn’t do well, and I want to do better for my country in Rio next year.”
Mafata also said she was hoping to compete in big, overseas marathons and test herself against the best before going to the Brazil showcase.
“I need to compete against top athletes regularly to prepare myself for next year’s Olympics because I believe such challenge could help me prepare better.”
Mafata also revealed she has been sponsored by fast-food giant, KFC, since January this year and believes this is another reason she has managed to concentrate on her athletics career.
“This something we rarely see here at home, but having KFC as my sponsors, has really helped me.
“I don’t have to worry about where I will sleep, as well as get food and transport to races, anymore. KFC are assisting me with everything I need, including kit, and for this, I am extremely grateful.”
Asked about her secret to success, Mafata said: “I believe it is hard work and discipline because I am really focused on my athletics career.”
Lesotho Amateur Athletics Association spokesperson, Sejanamane Maphathe, said it was refreshing to see new faces taking to the podium. However, Maphathe lamented the absence of more foreign runners as had become the tradition, which he said made the race less-competitive.
“I want to believe there was a breakdown of communication when the race was being organised because this time around, the majority of athletes were local. The only foreigners we had were from South Africa and Zimbabwe,” Maphathe said.
“This meant the competition was not as tough as it used to be when we had athletes from Kenya and Ethiopia and even the attendance was not as great, which somehow made the race less-competitive.”
Meanwhile, Pule Hlabahlaba of South Africa was the winner of the male category of the main race with Raletebele Sotho, Tiiso Mokheseng, ‘Molimo Mochema and Masilo Matjeane, all local, taking second, third, fourth and fifth place, respectively.
2015 High Altitude summer marathon winner in the women’s category, Moleboheng Mafata.