New athletics sensation realises dream
NOMAKOE Nkhasi rose from humble beginnings in Levi’s Nek where he used to spend most of his time herding livestock. But today, the 23-year-old long-distance athlete from Leribe district has gained national prominence and is preparing to represent his country at the 2016 Brazil olympics. Nkhasi, who won the Cape Town Two oceans half-marathon (21 kilometres) in April this year, talks to Lesotho Times ( LT) reporter Mikia Kalati, about his dramatic rise in his chosen sport.
LT: You were an unknown just a few months ago, but are now going to the Olympic Games. But how did your athletics career come about?
Nkhasi: I have always enjoyed participating in sports activities. I was good in both athletics and football as a kid and could have been a top player if I had chosen to become a footballer.
But the fact that I grew up looking after my family’s livestock meant I didn’t have the time for both athletics and football. Luckily, I got a chance to stay with my grandmother in soweto, south Africa and that’s where I started participating in athletics competition more seriously while also doing my high school studies.
LT: But were you surprised when you won the 21.1 km Two Oceans half-marathon?
Nkhasi: No; not really because I had been working hard and knew my time was going to come soon since I had been coming close in the past.
LT: So how did you feel after winning such a big race?
Nkhasi: I was with Motlokoa Nkhabutlane, who is a former winner of Two oceans marathon and he kept telling me I had the talent to win, which motivated me a lot.
But coming back to your question, it was a good feeling to win such a big race and it is something I will cherish forever. LT: What would you say are your major strengths as a runner?
Nkhasi: I’m somebody who works hard all the time so I would say putting a lot of effort in everything I do is what has taken me to where I am today.
It is also important to respect your work and listen to the coaches, which is what I always do.
LT: Last month, you represented Lesotho for the first time, when you took part in the African Senior Championship held in Durban where you came third in the 10 000-metre race. Surely winning a bronze medal made this race more special for you?
Nkhasi: I did not expect it to come so soon, but I was so excited to represent my country at that level.
I was excited to be among so many athletes from different countries as I had never been in such an environment and winning a medal added cherry on top of it all. LT: Not only did you win a bronze medal, but you also qualified for the Olympics at the event. How did you feel when you heard the news that you would be in Brazil in August?
Nkhasi: I was told about it by our coach, Ntate Pati Mareka, and it was the best feeling in the world; I was very happy that I had done my nation proud.
As for the olympics, as much as I have been based in soweto over the last few years, I have never been overseas.
so I’m looking forward to the olympics, but it will be a learning curve for me as I will be competing with the best in the business for the very first time.
However, as usual, I will give my best as I always do in any competition and make my country proud once again.
LT: Surely, it was a good feeling to be with Mosito Lehata who has been in the limelight for sometime now... Did you get a chance to talk to him?
Nkhasi: Yes, it was a good feeling because he has been running in big competitions for a while now. He told me I had the talent and should keep working hard to achieve big things.
LT: How long have you been staying in South Africa and how did it come about?
Nkhasi: Like I said, I came here in 2012 to stay with my grandmother and also study and coincidentally, that was the same time my athletics career started to blossom.
LT: What do you make of the talent that we have in the country and what needs to happen for your fellow athletes to end up in the same position as you?
Nkhasi: I think lack of resources and facilities is hurting a lot of talent especially in the rural areas like where I come from.
But the talent is amazing and all it needs is the platform to showcase it and good support structures.
LT: Where do you want to see yourself in the near future?
Nkhasi: I want to keep growing and improving as an athlete and hopefully, represent the country again at the olympics after the Brazil experience.
I still have age on my side and will be more mature and experienced to conquer the world at the next olympics.