Lesotho: Makae's Olympics Dream Crumbles

MOUNTAIN Bike (MTB) cyclist Tumelo Makae will not make it to the upcoming Tokyo Olympics next month due to Lesotho's low rankings.

Makae was one of the local athletes who were vying for their first Olympics qualification but due to the country's low ranking in the UCI MTB rankings, his dream has been shattered.

According to the MTB qualification criteria for the Olympics, for a country to be eligible to send at least one cyclist to the Olympics, it must be ranked above 21 in the world with at least 1000 points in MTB rankings. However, Lesotho is 52nd in the world with only 271 points.

Federation of Cycling Lesotho (FCL) president Rammotang Makatile confirmed to this publication that Lesotho could not send any cyclist to the Olympics.

This because its riders failed to attain the requisite points due to Covid-19 restrictions.

"Makae didn't qualify for the Olympics and one of the reasons is that in Africa, most of the qualifying events were cancelled while some were postponed due to Covid-19," Makatile said.

"He was therefore forced to join European races in which he didn't perform well. Now he must turn his focus to other upcoming events like the 2022 Commonwealth Games."

Makae is based in Switzerland under a Lesotho Tokyo 2020 Olympic Athletes Solidarity Scholarship funded by the Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC).

His scholarship to train at World Cycling Training Centre (WCTC) commenced in 2017 and was expected to end last August. However, it was extended until the forthcoming Tokyo Olympics. This after the Tokyo Olympics, which were initially set for July to August last year, were postponed because of Covid-19.

Speaking to the Lesotho Times, Makae said it was difficult for him to gather adequate points to boost the country's rankings when he was the only active rider during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

"Qualifying for Olympics was difficult especially because I was the only rider competing internationally. The qualifying criteria is based on countries' rankings and that needs a number of riders to compete internationally for the country to gather enough points. We needed over 1000 points," Makae said.

Lesotho's qualifying chances were slim given that it had performed poorly in the 2019 African Championships in Namibia. He finished 12th while compatriot Phetetso Monese came 11th.

"I have been doubting our qualifying chances since the poor performance at the African Championships. However, there is always second chance and I will work hard and qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics," Makae said.

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