GENDER, Youth, Sports and Recreation Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu yesterday pledged to give M120 000 to the eight-member team of athletes that represented Lesotho at the 2016 Summer Olympics recently held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Addressing a press conference in Maseru, Mr Mokhothu said the gesture was meant to reward the athletes for their commitment in representing the country at the global sporting showpiece even though none of them won a medal.
The Rio Olympics were held from 5 to 21 August 2016, with Mosito Lehata, Tšepang Sello, Nomakwe Nkhasi, Lebenya Nkoka and Tšepo Mathibelle competing in athletics, Moroke Mokhotho and Inkululeko Suntele in boxing, while Phethetso Monese represented the country in mountain biking.
The minister said it was an honour for any athlete to represent their country at the Olympics, hence the decision to reward them.
“As a leader, I should start with a thank you to this team for their commitment and dedication during the Olympic Games on behalf of the government,” Mr Mokhothu said.
“We all know there will always be loopholes when people are working. But to a greater extend, I think the athletes did very well.
“It is good to listen to criticism, but what is important is to take the positives out of the Olympics experience and continue with the journey.
“For that, my ministry made a decision to give M120 000 to be shared among the eight athletes as a reward for their dedication and commitment to represent the country at the Olympics.”
He said the ministry’s target was to see athletes making a living from their God-given talents and be rewarded irrespective of the outcome.
“I know some people will question why we give so much money to the athletes yet they failed to win a medal. But to us, they did enough for our country and we are encouraging others to follow in their footsteps in competing at the Olympics,” the minister said.
“It is not everyone who gets a chance to compete at the Olympics, and for that I think they deserved to be honoured and praised.
He added: “It has become a habit for us in Lesotho to always put criticism ahead of everything. But we saw the need to reward these athletes.”
Lesotho National Olympic Committee President, Matlohang Moiloa Ramoqopo, echoed the minister’s sentiments, saying they were proud of the athletes.
“We are proud of these athletes, and it is worth noting they are not professionals like the sportspeople they were competing against, so they should be appreciated for their efforts,” Ms Ramoqopo said.
“We are very grateful for what the minister has done as we have never seen anything like this before.”