Sport

Nkhabutlane’s Germany trip in the balance

Leemisa Thuseho

LONG distance runner Motlokoa Nkhabutlane’s trip to Germany for his maiden participation in the Haj Hannover Half Marathon is hanging in the balance due to coronavirus outbreak.

This after the German government recently moved to suspend all events that gather more than 1 000 participants.

The road race is scheduled for 26 April 2020 in Hannover but the outbreak that has killed over 4 000 and infected over 114 000 across the world since January, is threatening different sporting events.

Infections in Germany this week exceeded 1 000 cases and the country’s Health minister has already announced that it was stepping up moves to avoid continued spread of the virus.

“After many discussions with those responsible, I emphatically encourage the cancellation events with more than 1 000 people participants until further notice,” Health minister Jens Spahn was quoted by RTE online recently.

Hence the race the marathon is now likely to be cancelled.

Nkhabutlane was invited for the event last Friday and said he was unsure if the race will continue.

“The outbreak of the virus is indeed posing a threat to the trip but we will wait to hear from the race organisers and see what will transpire but I will continue training,” Nkhabutlane said.

Nkhabutlane is one of local athletes under the Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC) High-Performance Programme who are being preparing for the forthcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The athlete is itching to compete in the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Silver Label race to boost his Olympics qualifying chances.

“My target is to qualify for the Olympics for the first time and to improve my time, I need fast races like this one.”

Nkhabutlane is keeping his fingers crossed that the race is not cancelled after the cancellation of the 2020 Rome Marathon that had been penned in for 29 March due to the coronavirus outbreak. Italy, is the epicenter of the outbreak in Europe having recorded over 3000 cases so far.

The athlete had also hoped to participate in the Paris Marathon on 5 April 2020 but the race has been moved to 18 October due to the Coronavirus.

Meanwhile, he will participate in the Deloitte Half Marathon on Sunday.

Nkhabutlane must score 2:11:30 to qualify for the Olympics. Last September he clocked 2:12:09 in the Cape Town Marathon and he hopes one race will help him attain the required time.

Meanwhile, team Lesotho’s chef de mission for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Letsatsi Ntsibolane, says they are being cautious to prevent the infection of any of their athletes with coronavirus.

The Olympics start on 24 July and end on 9 August in Tokyo, Japan.

Lesotho has been sending athletes to different countries for the various qualification platforms across the continent.

Taekwondo and boxing athletes competed in qualifiers in Morocco and Senegal respectively last month and Ntsibolane says they have been cautious to ensure that none of their artistes is infected by the virus.

He said they has been constant communication between the organisers in Tokyo and the International Olympics Committee (IOC) during the preparations.

“So far, everything is on course and preparations are continuing while the IOC is monitoring the situation in Japan and I believe they will notice any inherent dangers,” Ntsibolane said.

“We are also being extra careful in picking countries to send our athletes for qualifiers. For instance, there are boxing qualifiers in Paris (France) but we are not sending athletes. There are also series of athletics qualifiers so we must be extremely careful.

“We were also fortunate that by the time we sent athletes for qualifiers to Morocco and Senegal there were no reported cases in Africa.”

He added that they would soon meet with the ministries of Gender and Youth, Sport and Recreation and that of Health for advice on the matter.

So far, only one local athlete, Khoarahlane Seutloali (marathon) has qualified for the Olympics.

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