SEMENYA SET FOR NAIROBI

WORLD 800m champion Caster Semenya should still compete at the African Athletics Championships in Nairobi at the end of the month despite failing a fitness test yesterday morning.

WORLD 800m champion Caster Semenya should still compete at the African Athletics Championships in Nairobi at the end of the month despite failing a fitness test yesterday morning.

A spokesperson for Athletics South Africa said late on Tuesday that Semenya would need to pass a fitness test to make the team for the World Junior Championships in Moncton, Canada, between July 19 and 25.

Semenya was cleared on Tuesday by the International Association of Athletics Federations to run as a woman.

After failing the fitness test yesterday, coach Michael Seme said Semenya would focus on the five-day continental championships starting on July 28, which gives her more time to prepare since she is not yet ready to race.

Semenya subsequently failed the fitness test with two 600m time trials. But even if Semenya is not included in the team expected to be named by ASA today, she is likely to compete in Nairobi as a late entry.

ASA assistant administrator Richard Stander told the MWP agency that Semenya would not need to achieve the qualifying standard as she would be given a wild-card entry by the IAAF because the continental championships fall within 18 months of the 19-year-old clinching the world title in August last year.

Stander said Semenya had "always been in our plans" and there was a good chance she could still compete in Nairobi, provided she can prove her fitness to the selectors. Seme said he had been told the 19-year-old needed to run a 600m time trial in one minute and 32 seconds on Wednesday, but she fell a few seconds short with two attempts.

"She ran 1:38 and she had a five-minute break, then she ran 1:35," Seme said. "But they said she can try and prove her fitness before the African Championships, so she will run one or two meetings in Europe and we will take it from there."

Seme said he had not expected his charge to be race-ready or set qualifying times at this stage, but was confident she would do so within the next couple of weeks.

"We are not angry that she hasn't been chosen for the team yet because we will respect any decisions made by the national federation," Seme said.

"Caster has only been jogging in training and you can't expect her to be ready to race so soon after 11 months off."

But outspoken athletics administrator Loretta Marthinus is incensed by the ASA interim leadership's decision to make Semenya run a fitness test, 24 hours after she was cleared by the IAAF. - Sapa and Ramatsiyi Moholoa

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