CAPE TOWN – Caster Semenya is set to make a last-ditch bid for Olympic qualification at the African athletics championships in Nigeria at the end of the month.
Two-time 800m Olympic gold medallist Semenya is attempting to make it to the Tokyo Games in the 5 000m event.
She is currently barred from running distances between 400m and the mile by World Athletics regulations for female athletes with naturally occurring high testosterone levels.
Semenya tried to breach the required time of 15 minutes and 10 seconds (15:10.00) in a special meeting in Durban last Friday, but due to a strong wind, she was unable to qualify – although she posted a new personal best of 15:32.15.
But there’s still hope for the 30-year-old to make it to Japan. According to Athletics South Africa’s track and field commission chairperson Jean Verster, the governing body are trying to arrange a meeting at Cape Town’s Green Point Stadium next Saturday, June 12 for middle and long-distance athletes to have another opportunity to qualify for the Olympics.
Apart from Semenya, men’s long-distance stars Precious Mashele and Mbuleli Mathanga are still hoping to make it in either the 5 000m or 10 000m.
Verster said during the ASA press conference in Johannesburg on Thursday that the big goal for Semenya will be the African championships, which take place in Lagos, Nigeria from June 23-27.
“The athletes left here – you mentioned Caster and Precious – we are setting up a meeting at Green Point Stadium next Saturday, specifically for those athletes,” said Verster, who is also Semenya’s former coach.
“There will only be a few events. Obviously we will try to have a 5 000m and 10 000m race. Last Friday night in Durban, unfortunately there was a stormy wind, even as much as five metres per second.
“So, for the longer distances, it is very, very difficult. We have checked the long-term weather, and it looks like good weather (for Cape Town).
“Unfortunately at this stage, Caster doesn’t want to run another 5 000m. We are looking at a 3 000m for her (in Cape Town), in preparation possibly for a 5 000m attempt at qualification at the African Championships.
“Caster won’t go into any championship if she’s not ready, and she will perform – I can guarantee you that. She wants to qualify and to win, and would not want to go just as inspiration for the rest of the team… although she will of course be an inspiration.”
There was some cheer for Semenya this week as she posted on social media that she was graduating with her B Tech sports management degree from Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), although she bemoaned the fact that she couldn’t receive her qualification in person.
“Today it’s that day, but virtual. Not the same feeling like the walk of fame for those few seconds,” Semenya wrote alongside a picture of a graduation gown.