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Ramakongoana books ticket to Paris Olympics

by Lesotho Times
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…iconic marathoner becomes  first Mosotho to qualify for next year’s global showpiece

Leemisa Thuseho

Top long distance runner, Tebello Ramakongoana has become the first Lesotho athlete to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games to be held in France.  The 26-year-old Qacha’s Nek-based runner qualified for the quadrennial international multi-sport event following his excellent performance in the 42.2 kilometre race of the 2023 World Athletics Championships held in Budapest, Hungary.

The marathon took place on Sunday and Ramakongoana finished the race in 4th  position out of 83 runners and clocked a personal best time of 2hours 9 minutes and 57 seconds.

The World Athletics Championships  started on 19 August and ended yesterday, while the Olympic are scheduled for 26 July to 11 August 2024 in Paris.

Although this time was not enough to secure him automatic qualification to the Olympics as the qualification is 2 hours 8 minutes and 10 seconds, Ramakongoana made it to the global event by virtue of finishing in the top 5. In addition, he will pocket 16 000USD (approx. M300,000) as prize money for the amazing feat he achieved competing against some of the world’s best athletes.  . Ramakongoana becomes the first ever Mosotho to achieve fourth position in the World Championships marathon.

The marathon was won by Uganda’s Victor Kiplagat who romped home in 2 hours, 8 minutes and 53 and seconds, while Israel’s Maru Teferi finished second in a season best of 2hs:09mins:12 secs and Ethiopia’s Leul Gebresilase came third in 2hrs:09mins:19secs.

Ramakongoana, who was making his second appearance in the World Championships, atoned for his first appearance disappointment last year in Oregon, in the United States of America (USA), where he finished a distant 35th with a time of 2 hours, 12 minutes, and 35 seconds.

Talking to the Lesotho Times this week, Ramakongoana said he was happy to  have finally realised his dream of booking a ticket to the Paris Olympics.

“The mission is accomplished, thanks to my coach, sponsors, family and friends for always being with me,” the excited Ramakongana said.

“I am happy to have qualified for the Olympics even though it was not easy, but I put God first in everything I do.

“Coming to the games, my target with my coach was to qualify and I did exactly that. Now the focus is on the Olympics.”

Talking about his technique on the day, Ramakongoana  said he was  consistent from the word.

“The race was very challenging as it was very hot. However, I avoided going for the ‘fartlek system’ as I knew it consumes a lot of energy. So, I went for consistency, which is very important in marathons.”

Fartlek, which is Swedish for ‘speed play’, is a form of unstructured speed-work involving a continuous run in which periods of faster running are mixed with periods of easy- or moderate-paced running, and not complete rest, as with interval training.

According to Ramakongoana, what works for him is discipline and hard work.

“Discipline, hard work and the love of what I am doing is what works for me, and that is the advice I can give to other athletes,” he said.

Ramakongoana is currently being coached by American James Francis McKirdy .

Meanwhile, Federation of Athletics Lesotho (FAL) president, Ts’eliso Pheta is confident that the best is yet to come from Ramakongoana.

“He did very well, and from all the top runners in that marathon, he was the only one who made his personal best,” Phata said.

“He is one of the few runners that are representing this country with all their hearts and the country is yet to celebrate more victories from him.

In another milestone for Lesotho, Mokulubete Makatisi, who was the only female runner representing the country at this global event, recorded her seasonal best time in Saturday’s marathon.

Makatisi finished the 42.2km race in 2hrs:37mins:49secs to claim 42nd position  out of 78 runners. This was Makatisi’s maiden appearance in the global event.

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