New athletics sen­sa­tion re­alises dream

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

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.

Nomakoe Nkhasi

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