LAAA must go back to the drawing board
LESOTHO was treated to dismal performances by its three representatives at the just-ended International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) World Championships in London over the weekend.
Just like at the Rio Olympics in Brazil in 2016, the hopes of the nation were pinned on sprinter, Mosito Lehata and marathon runners, Lebenya Nkoka and Tšepo Mathibelle.
However, the trio failed dismally as Lehata was disqualified for a false start in the heats of the 100 metres race while the marathon duo failed to finish their race.
This was very embarrassing particularly in view of the fact all three are experienced campaigners.
To have top marathon runners failing to complete a race tells a story of athletes that went to a major competition without proper preparations.
It is not the first time it has happened and I do not think it is for the last time it will happen as long we don’t get our act together.
It comes from the incompetence in our sports associations where administrators are just happy to travel the world with athletes getting allowances without any care for the poor performances.
Lehata’s standards have dropped drastically since he reached the final of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Scotland.
The national 100m and 200m record holder has failed to live up to the promise that he showed in his early 20s.
I understand that injuries have also hampered his progress but I also blame the Lesotho Amateur Athletics Association (LAAA) and the Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC) for his shortcomings.
In 2014, LNOC sent Lehata to Mauritius on the Olympic Solidarity Scholarship with the aim of preparing him for major competitions.
In the first place, I do not think Mauritius was a suitable country for a top athlete to undergo training of any kind because they are not a sporting country.
I understand they have good facilities at the Training Centre where Lehata was based but countries like Jamaica and United States of America would have been better destinations, given their reputation for consistently producing top athletes.
Being in Jamaica or USA would mean that he would compete and live with top runners and I have no doubt that it would have worked wonders for him.
I also understand that there are financial implications and in that case, South Africa would have been the best option on the continent.
They have the facilities and their athletes continue to shine on the big stage.
A good example is their sprinter, Akani Simbine, whose star now shines brighter than that of Lehata even though the latter used to beat him every time they competed against each other.
Those who follow athletics will remember the recent showdown between the two sprinters at the 2016 African Senior Championship in Durban where Lehata claimed silver and Simbine got bronze.
But it has been a different story since then with Simbine enjoying more success than Lehata.
I believe this has to do with the good support systems that the South African enjoys.
Apart from the financial support that Simbine has, there is more professionalism and hunger to succeed from our neighbours especially in sporting codes such as athletics.
In Lehata, we are talking about an athlete that in 2013 finished first ahead of Jamaican sprint legend, Usain Bolt, during the heats of the 200m event at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, Russia.
This says a lot about the potential he had at that time and I am adamant that if his scholarship had been in a country like the USA, he would have gone on to be among the best.
I think there are a lot of factors that contributed to his downfall and that was evident when an athlete of his calibre could not even win a medal at the 2015 All Africa Games in Congo Brazzaville.
It was one of those years where Lehata was overworked and running in every competition.
Proper management of athletes and their bodies is one area where we are still way, way behind as a country.
This is all because we have administrators that want to stay in power forever and do not want to make way for fresh ideas.
Getting scholarships for our athletes to train and live under better facilities abroad is a very good initiative but it becomes a problem when you take them to countries like Mauritius who do not even have top athletes themselves.
For marathon runners, we know that countries like Ethiopia and Kenya are the best and it would be best to take our long distance runners to any of these countries for training.
Again, we should be in a place where we have two or three more young athletes coming after Lehata to take over from him when he decides to call it a day.
Lesotho’s inability to make development of young talent a priority was exposed at the recent World Youth Championships in Kenya where we had just one representative.
The best thing to do in this situation would be to expose our athletes to international competitions while they are still young like South Africa does.
I hope this is a lesson for LAAA and they will man up for their incompetence.
It is a shame that our athletes cannot finish their races at every major competition like the Olympics and World Championships.
It is totally unacceptable and I hope the Lesotho Sports and Recreation Commission will come up will solutions to end the incompetence within the associations.
MARATHON runner Tšepo Mathibelle.