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Caster Semenya to make Olympic qualification attempt in Durban

David Isaacson Sports reporter
Caster Semenya during the Athletics Gauteng North Championship at University Of Pretoria Tuks Stadium on March 27, 2021 in Pretoria.
Caster Semenya during the Athletics Gauteng North Championship at University Of Pretoria Tuks Stadium on March 27, 2021 in Pretoria.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

Caster Semenya will make a bid for Olympic qualification in the 5‚000m in Durban on May 28‚ according to her SA-based manager Lee-Roy Newton.

If successful in her crack at the 15min 10.00sec automatic qualifying time for the Tokyo Games‚ Semenya will become the first black woman to represent SA in a distance event at an Olympics.

She will also be the country’s first woman to compete in the 5‚000m at a Games.

Only three women have competed in distance track events for SA at the Olympics‚ with Elana Meyer‚ Dominique Scott and Colleen de Reuck all doing the 10‚000m. Gwen Griffiths was supposed to run the 5‚000m at Atlanta 1996‚ but she failed to start after a freak accident that left her concussed just before the race.

Semenya turned her focus to the 5‚000m after being pushed out of her regular distances from 400m to 1‚500m because of World Athletics’ new regulations for athletes with differences in sexual development.

The double Olympic 800m champion‚ who won the 1‚500m world championship bronze in 2017 and enjoyed a top world ranking in the 400m‚ has refused to take medication to lower naturally occurring higher levels of testosterone which would allow her to compete in those events.

Instead she is challenging the World Athletics regulations at the European Court of Human Rights‚ but in the meantime is running freely in events beyond the band stipulated by the world governing body.

Semenya retained her SA 5‚000m crown at the national championships in Pretoria last month when she clocked a 15:52.28 personal best.

Remove 4% for racing at altitude‚ which is more challenging than sea level for distance runners‚ and she is close to the 15:10.00 qualifying standard. She will also benefit from more practice‚ having run the event only three times in her career.

Newton‚ who is staging the meet at the Kings Park athletics stadium‚ said her training partner and closest rival‚ Glenrose Xaba‚ would race alongside her in Durban. The meet is scheduled to start at 3pm.

If Semenya is fast enough to qualify for Japan‚ she could make it into the final of the event.

A medal‚ however‚ would be unlikely. A quick race‚ like at Rio 2016‚ saw the bronze medallist clocking 14:33.59‚ but a tactical race‚ as at London 2012‚ had the third-placed runner coming in at 15:05.15.

But simply being able to line up at the Olympics would be a triumph of sorts for Semenya.