Semenya must forget about the Olympics, former coach says

Seme feels SA athlete will not qualify in time for the 5 000m

Caster Semenya attempts to qualify for the Olympic Games in the women’s 5000m during the Newton Classic Qualifier at Kings Park Athletic Stadium on May 28, 2021 in Durban.
Caster Semenya attempts to qualify for the Olympic Games in the women’s 5000m during the Newton Classic Qualifier at Kings Park Athletic Stadium on May 28, 2021 in Durban.
Image: Roger Sedres

SA golden girl Caster Semenya must forget about qualifying for the Olympic Games over the 5 000m distance. This is the strong view of her former coach Michael “Sponge” Seme.

The man who discovered her as a teenager in Limpopo in 2007 does not see her running the Olympic standard qualifying time of 15:10:00 before the cut-off date of June 29. The Olympic Games will take place from July 23 to August 8 in Tokyo, Japan.

Seme coached an 18-year-old Semenya to the world championships 800m title in Berlin, Germany in 2008. 

The soft-spoken athletics mentor who now coaches prominent athletes such as Stephen Mokoka, Glenrose Xaba and Collen Mulaudzi, is of the view that the 5 000m distance is just too much for the 30-year-old two-time 800m Olympic champion.

According to Seme, Semenya started preparing for the 5 000m late and that is taking its toll on her. Semenya is in quarantine in Finland as she waits to run her first 5 000m race in the Scandinavian country.

“Caster is a strong athlete and was supposed to qualify a long time ago because she was busy fighting World Athletics and started the 5 000m late.

She thought it was going to be easy for her to qualify over the 5 000m but it is not. She was supposed to qualify for the 5 000m at the SA championships in Tshwane in April. If I were still with her, I would have told her to forget about it, as I know her body, strength and weakness. I would have helped her to prepare for the distance much earlier,” Seme told Sowetan.

Seme is no longer close to her and he said depending on her training programme she could still qualify. However, he said that he would have advised her to start with the 5 000m early as she was racing against the clock now.

Semenya will not be allowed to run her favourite 800m race that has produced two Olympic gold medals, at London 2012 and Rio 2016.

She is also not allowed to run the 400m and 1 500m because of the new World Athletics regulations, which require athletes with a high level of testosterone to lower it by taking medication.

“There are people that are still questioning her gender and she spends all her life defending herself. But she is a fighter and she must see the 5 000m race as another challenge even though it is a difficult one.

“She might not be able to qualify, but she fought for all the female athletes by taking on World Athletics. I am more worried about her programme more than anything else is. Her qualification depends on it,” said Seme.

Seme, advised Semenya to make use of her speed and to do her best to book her Olympic ticket. “She is one of a kind and as a country we must relax and rally behind her,” he added.

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