Semenya Bids for 5,000 Meters Slot at Tokyo Olympics

May 27, 2021 Updated: May 27, 2021

CAPE TOWN—Caster Semenya, denied an opportunity to win a third successive Olympic 800 meters gold, will on Friday attempt to qualify for the Tokyo Games over 5,000 meters.

Semenya will run in a meeting in Durban where she must dramatically improve her personal best over the distance to be able to go to the Olympics in two month’s time.

The 30-year-old South African is banned from competing in any race from 400 meters to a mile after World Athletics ruled in 2018 that in order to ensure fair competition women with high natural testosterone levels must take drugs to reduce them to compete in middle-distance races.

Semenya, who refuses to take medication to alter her testosterone levels, has challenged the ruling but seen several appeals dismissed. The 5,000 meters is therefore her best chance to go to the Tokyo Games.

Semenya set a time of 15:52.28 in winning the South African title over 5,000 meters in Pretoria last month but it was 42 seconds slower than the 15:10.00 needed in order to qualify for the Olympics.

Last year Semenya considered attempting the 200 meters but quickly gave up plans, saying she saw no future for herself in sprints and feared injury.

Semenya continues to challenge World Athletics’s ruling and has taken her case to the European Court of Human Rights but the case is unlikely to be completed by the time the Games begin in July.

Her attorney Greg Nott told local media this week Semenya was hoping to have the matter settled before next year’s World Athletics Championship in Eugene, Oregon.

By Mark Gleeson