Mokhotho books Rio ticket

Mokhotho books Rio ticket

LuciahPhahla

Maseru

Lesotho boxer Moroke Mokhotho will be on the plane to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Brazil after being granted a spot by the International Boxing Association (AIBA).

Mokhotho has qualified thanks to the Tripartite Commission which is allocating places at Rio 2016 to deserving athletes from countries that have had less than eight athletes in individual sports at the last two editions of the Olympics.

Mokhotho, who fights in the 52 kilogram category, has won his place thanks to being the highest ranked fighter in the division not to qualify directly for Rio.

In March, the flyweight lost a bronze medal qualifier to Uganda’s Ronald Serugo at AIBA’sAfrican Olympic qualification tournament held in Yaoundé, Cameroon. It was a fight Lesotho Boxing Association (LEBA) public relations officer Pheello Sofe said Mokhotho deserved to win.

All the same, Mokhotho will get his Olympic chance.

“On Monday (LEBA) president (Tankiso Ramakhula) received a message from AIBA informing him that our boxer Mokhotho has been granted a spot in the Olympics,” Sofe told thepost on Tuesday.

“We are really happy for him. Like I have said before, sometimes coming from a small country like Lesotho can work against you as an athlete because the judges will look at you and think ‘no, someone from Lesotho can’t win this fight’, so a lot of unfair decisions go against us.”

He continued: “Mokhotho dominated his opponent in Cameroon but at the end it was said that he lost the fight and we have been wondering how. But, we know these things happen and we are happy he was given an opportunity.”

Mokhotho joins fellow boxer Nkululeko Suntele who qualified for the Rio 56kg bantamweight competition via the Cameroon event. The boxing tournaments at the Olympics are scheduled to take place from August 6 to 21 at the Riocentro centre.

Mokhotho’s invite brings the number of Lesotho athletes set for the Olympics to five joining Suntele, marathon runners Tšepo Mathibelle and Lebenya Nkoka as well as sprinter Mosito Lehata.

Mokhotho, won bronze at the 2015 All Africa Games in Congo Brazzaville, has long been an Olympic hope for LEBA.

However, just like teammates Tšepo Lepoqo (64kg) and Masheane Mohlerepe (60kg), his qualification bid in Cameroon ended in disappointment.

Mokhotho, Lepoqo and Mohlerepe were given Olympic lifelines last month when they were invited to the AOB Final Olympic World Qualifier event in Baku, Azerbaijan in June. However, thanks to Mokhotho’s qualification, Sofe said the trio will no longer be attending.

“Matsipane (Suntele) and Moroke were the only two boxers that the association was sending to the Olympics from the beginning,” Sofe explained. “The other two are still young and they are learning that’s why we send them wherever these two are going, so that they can gain experience. Now that Mokhotho is going to Brazil, they will no longer be going to Europe next month.”

Sofe added: “As the association we are relieved because taking boxers to Europe is expensive. (Lesotho National Olympic Committee) was helping but they had already told us that the Europe trip might fail due to funding. So, we are happy.”

Instead, Mokhotho Lepoqo, Mohlerepe and Suntele will form part of Lesotho’s contingent at an invitational tournament in Fouriesburg, South Africa, at the end of this month.

Sofe said the boxers will face Rio-bound South African counterparts at the competition.

“They have been training very hard after their trip to Cameroon, they haven’t rested at all and they are preparing for the Olympics. On the 28th (May) we are taking them to Fouriesburg and they will fight against other South African boxers that have already qualified for the Olympics as we are helping them prepare even better,” he said.

The local teams that will compete in Fouriesburg are the Best Boxers, Butha-Buthe, Tšosane, Lerotholi Polytechnic, Lesotho Defence Force and Qoaling boxing clubs.

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