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Makae hopes for Olympic invitation

Lesotho mountain-bike star Tumelo Makae says he is crossing his fingers that he gets an Olympic invitation from the International Cycling Union (UCI). Makae has failed to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games that start in July through the UCI’s qualifying route but his performances could earn him an invitation to the Games in Paris, France.

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A total of 72 mountain bikers (36 per gender) will race through the Paris 2024 cross-country course and two spots will be granted by the UCI through the Olympic Universality Places, which are a lifeline to athletes from underrepresented National Olympic Committees.

Universality Places are designed to increase the diversity of participating nations across the sports programme of the Olympic Games and Makae is hoping he receives a call after impressing at the African Mountainbike Championships held last weekend in Morocco where he helped Lesotho finish third.

For now, Makae is playing the waiting game and he arrived in the country on Tuesday.

Lesotho’s third place finish is the third time in a row the country has claimed bronze at the continental showpiece after similar performances in 2022 in Namibia and last year in South Africa.

This year Makae travelled alone to Morocco and, speaking to thepost upon his arrival, the 27-year-old said competing without a teammate was difficult because other countries sent numerous riders who helped each other by blocking opponents during racing.

Makae had to fight through on his own and said his focus was ensuring Lesotho stays in the top five.

Seven countries competed at the African Mountainbike Championships and Makae said he is happy with his performance. He thanked the Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC) for its support.

“I understand what is expected of me when I go to big races,” he said.

“Every race comes with pressure as good performances keep Lesotho high in the rankings.”

With Africa’s top two nations – South Africa and Namibia – sending a legion of riders as usual, Makae set his eyes on beating the rest of the field including a Tunisian rider who turned into his closest competition for a podium place.

“We were in the same position all along but I left him in the last two laps, I am very happy that I managed to perform this way while I did not have teammates,” Makae said.

“I am thankful to the LNOC because the exposure and experience I gained is through their financial support. To Basotho, I will always try not to disappoint you,” he added.

Federation of Cycling Lesotho (FCL) spokesperson Malefane Morie said they are delighted that Makae is getting better and better, thanks to the many competitions that he races in. He said it was never in doubt that Makae would do well in Morocco.

Morie said the FCL plan to develop and train more riders

He said if the federation can send a team of at least five to race then they can give each other support. Morie said the FCL is struggling financially but they have asked for help from abroad and the feedback was positive.

“We wrote to the UCI and America to help us and America promised to give us 10 bicycles but under conditions that we recruit new riders in schools,” Morie said on Monday.

“This means the equipment will be used for training riders in schools while the UCI promised to give us funds for training,” he added.

Meanwhile, another rider, Kabelo Makatile, is representing Lesotho at the Tour de Algeria competitions that started last Saturday and will end on Monday.

Tlalane Phahla

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