Tlotliso looks to future

2016-08-31 06:00


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PHUTHADITJHABA. – South Africa’s mercurial junior sprinter Tlotliso Leotlela is looking beyond his failure to have won silver at the recently ended Rio Olympic Games in Brazil.

The versatile track star from Elite section of Phuthaditjhaba in Qwaqwa finished fourth in the 200 m qualifier heats, clocking 20.59. He also fell by the wayside in the 100 m sprint event won by reigning Olympic champion Usain Bolt.

Leotlela was one of the three SA medal hopefuls in the sprint events, 100 m and 200 m. The others included Anaso Jobodwana and Clarence Munyai. Leotlela (18), however, was the only junior competitor.

In the qualifier 200 m heats, he finished second in 20.59s behind Jobodwana, who had won bronze in the 2015 World Championship and had clocked 20.53s in the 200 m. Munyai finished in 20.66 behind the boy from the dusty streets of Qwaqwa in the Eastern Free State.

Leotlela is currently ranked 43rd in the world among the top sprinters.

His inclusion in the South Africa Olympic Team was due to the merit of his performances, notable with a personal best of 20.47s in 200 m at the Southern African championship in Zambia in June this year.

It was Leotlela’s first Olympic appearance and the TuksSport High School gr.12 learner believes the experience gained would be crucial in his future and when he faces the challenge of doing well at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games in Japan.

“I did not expect to be part of the South African team to this year’s Olympics. But when that opportunity arose, I seized it and utilised it. I am proud to have been one of the athletes who represented my country at the Rio Olympics.

“I have learnt a lot during my time in Brazil and I now know exactly what is needed to win a medal at the Olympics. Most of the athletes who took part in the Olympics were very experienced and they knew when to save and release energy,” he said.

In 2015 he won the 100 m at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa in a time of 10.20, his personal best thus far. Leotlela came up just 0.01 shy of the world youth best of 10.19 set by Japan’s Yoshihide Kiryu in 2012.

With age still on his side and his future looking bright, Leotlela is thought to be more of a 200 m specialist destined for greater things. These views followed his form that saw him finish fifth in the 200 m at the IAAF World Youth Championships in July 2015.

Leotlela started schooling at the Sentinel Primary School and is optimistic about the prospect of excelling at the next Olympics in 2020.

“The fact that I failed to qualify due to a slow time in the heats motivates me to do more in the next Olympics. I will be very happy to win a medal at the Olympics before retiring,” he said.

The ambitious and motivated athlete started competing at a tender age. At 10, he was fit enough to challenge for the national championship. Among his achievements are the following: finished 4th and 2nd in the 200 m at the World Juniors and won the 100 and 200 m at the Junior Southern Region championship. He is also proud of winning the 100 m at the 2015 Commonwealth Games.

“I became tired of running when I was in gr.7, but I got fuelled-up again after being offered a bursary by Louis Botha Technical High School in Bloemfontein.

“I left Louis Botha for TuksSport when I was in gr. 11, because I needed a challenge to improve. I also decided to change coaches. It was risky, but proved a risk worth taking,” said Leotlela.

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