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Mikia Kalati

LESOTHO marathon record holder Motlokoa Nkhabutlane says he is looking forward to getting his new athletics season underway having last ran at the Valencia Marathon in Spain last December.

Nkhabutlane also starts the year on a high note with the Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC) recently revealing that the runner is among a group of runners enrolled in their in-house scholarship for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

The group of athletes under the new LNOC sponsored scholarship also includes 2016 and 2018 Lesotho gold medallist at the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Games, Manqabang Tsibela.

They join the likes of Mosito Lehata, Lerato Sechele, Tšepang Sello and Moroke Mokhotho, who have been under the Olympic Solidarity Scholarship aimed at helping them prepare and secure qualification to represent the Mountain Kingdom at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“Yes, I have started working with the LNOC though it’s not a big sponsorship,” Nkhabutlane said adding: “but they have promised to review it as time goes on”. What value is this support?

“I think the support will be very helpful and I’m hopeful that they will come back with a better package because they promised to improve the support.”

The former Two Oceans Marathon winner indicated that he hopes to get his new campaign underway in April to improve on a disappointing showing in Valencia. He came 25th clocking 2:14:59.

Nkhabutlane, who came fourth at last year’s Paris Marathon in the process breaking Thabiso Moqhali’s 26-year-old record of 2:09: 47 last year, pleaded with the sports mother body to offer him a scholarship for him to come out of a self-imposed exile from representing the country in international competitions.

The marathoner last-year turned down an offer to represent the country at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games demanding better support for athletes to prepare for major global competitions.

The LNOC has since heard his plea and enrolled him and other athletes into a sponsorship to assist their preparations heading into the 2020 Olympic Games.

“I have started my preparations and I’m confident that I will run my first race for 2019 between April and May. I usually run two races a year and it will not be different in 2019.

“As for the sponsorship from LNOC, if all works out and the promises are fulfilled, I will definitely be back running for the country again with the focus on the 2020 Olympics.

“Things are improving at the moment but we are expecting more support from LNOC although what we are getting has been very helpful.

“The goal is to definitely improve and reach the heights achieved in Paris (fourth) and Rome (eighth) last year. I wanted to do well in Valencia as well but things did not work according to plan.

“I am looking at redeeming myself in the first race of 2019,” Nkhabutlane said.

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