CAPE TOWN – It was a case of so near, and yet so far for Caster Semenya in the 5 000m in Durban on Friday.
The two-time 800m Olympic champion just missed out on qualifying in the long-distance event at the Newton Classic Qualifier at the Kings Park Athletics Stadium, which was live-streamed on the BackTrack Sports Facebook page.
Chasing a time of 15 minutes and 10 seconds exactly to make it to Japan, Semenya and good friend Glenrose Xaba went straight to the front and took turns in taking the lead and maintaining the required pace.
Xaba kept going strong in the middle stages, but with about three laps to go, Semenya tried to push even harder as she realised that she was running out of time to finish in 15:10.00.
In cloudy conditions, the 30-year-old was grimacing over the last two laps, but it was not to be on the day.
There was the consolation of a new personal best time of 15:32.15, beating her previous 5 000m mark of 15:52.28, but it was not quick enough.
Semenya still has until June 29 to break through the 15:10.00 barrier, but it is unclear when she will compete again.
Athletics South Africa’s excellence manager, Hezekiel Sepeng, told IOL Sport earlier in the week that the organisation will have a discussion with Semenya about whether she would be available for the African Athletics Championships, which has been rescheduled for Lagos in Nigeria from June 23-27.
Sepeng said that Semenya was due to travel to Europe soon to take part in competitions there.
If she doesn’t accomplish the 15:10.00 in the next few weeks, the African championships could be her final opportunity to make it to Tokyo.