Mafata basks in glory

Lesotho Times - - Sport - Mikia Kalati

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.

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