Battle of the sprinters at SA champs but first we get to watch Caster Semenya

Caster Semenya File picture: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Caster Semenya File picture: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Published Apr 15, 2021


Not only are Caster Semenya and Wayde van Niekerk participating in the South African athletics championships, but the 100m and 200m events are shaping up to be thrilling battles between the country's leading sprinters.

Multiple 800m champion Semenya has been confirmed as a starter in the 5 000m, which takes place at 8.20am today, in what could be a late bid to make it to the Tokyo Olympics.

The 30-year-old has been continuing her battle to be cleared to race in distances between 400m and the mile, with her fight with World Athletics' rulings on athletes with differences in sexual development (DSD) now at the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

Semenya is still waiting on a court date, which seems unlikely to happen, at this stage, before the Olympics starts in July.

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So, after a brief attempt at the 200m previously, the 5 000m is the next option. Her personal best of 16 minutes, 14.43 seconds (16:14.43) will need to improve dramatically, with the Olympic qualifying time being 15:10.00.

Ethiopian athletes have dominate in the 5 000m over the years, with Letesenbet Gidey having set a new world record of 14:06.62 last October – the South African mark of 14:44.05 was posted by Elana Meyer in 1995.

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So, Semenya will have her work cut out to make it to Tokyo.

Van Niekerk has been entered in the 200m event only as he is still waiting on his passport and visa from US authorities to be able to travel to Florida, where he will join up with new coach Lance Brauman.

The 400m Olympic champion clocked a superb time of 20.10 seconds last month, but will be up against Clarence Munyai, whose SA record stands at 19.69, in the 200m final on Saturday night.

There is also great excitement in the 100m, which kick off with heats this morning, with the semi-finals this afternoon and the final tomorrow evening.

Commonwealth Games champion Akani Simbine is the obvious favourite, but the likes of Gift Leotlela and Thando Roto will look to challenge him all the way to the finish line.

National coach for sprints and relays, Paul Gorries, told Independent Media yesterday that the 100m could produce a sub-10 second time.

“Akani is the clear favourite (in the 100m), and then it would be an interesting battle between the younger guys like Gift Leotlela.”


IOL Sport

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