Athletics / 8 September 2019, 08:30am / Ockert de Villiers
South Africa’s medal-winning potential has suffered a serious blow with Caster Semenya and Wayde van Niekerk missing out on this year’s IAAF World Championships in Doha, starting on September 27.
The qualifying window for the championships closed on Friday night with only a few athletes adding their names to the preliminary list that was released in June.
While track and field has been one of the country’s top-performing codes on the global stage in recent years, the sport experienced a bit of a lull this season.
South Africa’s athletes have not quite burned up the track this season, with the exception of Akani Simbine and long jumpers Luvo Manyonga and Ruswahl Samaai.
Semenya’s absence due to the IAAF’s female eligibility rules has left a gaping void in the South African team.
As it stands, only four women will be representing the country at the championships.
Olympic javelin throw silver medallist Sunette Viljoen has been battling with injury and has failed to record a world qualifying mark. Her season’s best 61.22m is short of Athletics SA’s B-standard.
South African women’s 100m record holder Carina Horn demonstrated her class last month by posting a qualifying time of 11.01 seconds, which is also her second-fastest time.
The time ranks her 11th in the world, boosting her chances of reaching the final at the global showpiece.
Fellow sprinter Tebogo Mamatu has also dipped below the qualifying mark with her tremendous personal best of 11.04sec she set in La Chaux-de-Fonds in June.
US-based Dominique Scott-Efurd is also one of the few women to post an A-qualifying time thanks to her superb run in the 5000m at the London Diamond League meeting in July.
She chopped more than five seconds off her previous best with a time of 14min 59.08sec, becoming only the second SA woman after Elana Meyer to dip under 15 minutes over 12 and a half laps.
World junior and youth 400m hurdles champion Zeney van der Walt is the only other SA woman to achieve the required qualifying standard for the championships.
The 19-year-old clocked a B-qualifying time of 55.73sec when she won silver at the World Student Games in July.
Shot-put ace Ischke Senekal could be going to Doha on a wild card ticket as a defending African champion, but she did not feature in ASA’s preliminary list of qualifiers earlier this year.
Senekal’s personal best of 17.24m is short of the qualifying standard of 18m.
National 100m hurdles record holder Rikenette Steenkamp made a last-gasp attempt to qualify on Friday but missed the B-standard by the narrowest of margins. She finished second at a permit meeting in Spain, clocking 13.02sec - just 0.04s short of the required mark.
There might still be a chance for some of the women on the fringes to crack the nod should they receive an invitation from the IAAF to make up the numbers.
But the prospect of sending only four women to the championships should trigger the warning lights for ASA a year out from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.