LONG distance-runner ‘Neheng Khatala clocked 2:28:06 to win the Retail Capital Langa Marathon in Cape Town on Sunday to qualify for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.
Khatala becomes the second Lesotho athlete to qualify for this year’s edition of the Olympics after her husband, Khoarahlane Seutloali, who qualified during the Cape Town Marathon in 2019 after clocking 2:11:04.
She told the Lesotho Times this week that qualifying for the Olympics was a dream come true.
“I am short of words,” Khatala said.
“What I can only say is that I am extremely happy to secure my debut Olympic qualification.
“This is indeed a dream come true.”
She said winning the race was not as difficult as she had expected because of her intense preparations.
The weekend race was the last opportunity for marathoners to qualify for the Olympics and Khatala made sure beating the 2:29:30 Olympic standard.
The result saw her breaking her personal best of 2:33:44 which she set during the same race in 2018.
Khatala believes her husband played a huge role in her success.
“Seeing him (Seutloali) qualifying for the Olympics motivated me to push harder. Since he had already qualified, he was always helping me train. Now I must focus and remain disciplined.”
Khatala is also a three-time winner of Lesotho’s High-Altitude Summer Marathon 21km after winning consecutively from 2017 to 2019. She is still the reigning champion in that category since last year’s edition was cancelled on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic.
She also represented Lesotho at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia.
Meanwhile, Khatala’s coach, Andrew Booyens also told the Lesotho Times that he was proud of her achievement. Despite making her debut appearance at the Olympics, he is confident that she will perform well.
“I am proud of her; she is very talented and has worked extremely hard. I am confident that she will do well in the Olympics,” Booyens said.
Unfortunately, the Cape Town Marathon also saw Motlokoa Nkhabutlane missing the Olympic standard by just two seconds after finishing second in the men’s race. He clocked 2:11:32. The race was won by South Africa’s Elroy Gelant who 2:11:22. Lesotho’s Tšepo Ramashamole finished third after crossing the finish line in 2:12:02.