Lebo Phalula urges female athletes to push for Olympic qualification

Lebo Phalula urges female athletes to push for Olympic qualification

Seasoned long-distance runner Lebo Phalula is encouraging black women to push their limits and strive for Olympic qualification.

The upcoming Olympics are scheduled for July/August in Paris, and Phalula has expressed her desire to witness more representation from underprivileged backgrounds on Team SA. 

The 39-year-old from Soweto, who competed in the 42.2km marathon at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016, emphasised the importance of diversifying training efforts.

"My message is to motivate young girls to do well as we prepare for the Olympics, and I wish to see more young black female athletes to qualify for the Games," said Phalula.

"I will be happy to be glued on the TV to see Prudence Sekgodi being in a final and a medal would be something else. I want to see that girl doing well in 800m, that's my motivation for 2024."

Phalula recommends focusing on cross country and track events to align with aspirations for success, and she firmly believes South Africa overly emphasises ultra-marathons like the Comrades, which leads many young runners to aspire solely to participate in those local events.

"Let's not run [only] the Comrades Marathon, I'm not going to encourage them at a young age to dwell on Comrades and Two Oceans," she added.

"Start with a foundation of track and cross country, I think they will last longer. We've got good female athletes who can do better from 800m to 10 000m.

"The thing is that we're more focussed on Comrades – we think it's the most important race in South Africa, but if you do track and cross country, you can have good [careers] like Maria Mutola or Caster Semenya. We need to encourage more young women athletes."

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