Caster Semenya to continue her 5000m Olympic quest in Germany on Saturday
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CAPE TOWN - Caster Semenya will continue her quest to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in Germany on Saturday night.
The 30-year-old two-time 800m Olympic champion will line up in the 5 000m race at the Sparkassen Gala in Regensburg, a Bavarian city about 105km north of Munich.
Semenya is currently in Gemona, Italy – over 500km south of Regensburg – where she is in mandatory 10-day Covid-19 quarantine.
Her manager in Europe, Jukka Harkonen of Finland, confirmed to Independent Media on Monday that Semenya will participate in the German race on Saturday, as well as another 5 000m event in Liege, Belgium on June 30, which he described as “her main competition”.
Her arrival in Italy follows a dramatic few days in which Athletics South Africa (ASA) gave the approval to sponsor her trip to Europe.
Chairperson of the ASA track and field commission, Jean Verster, told Independent Media on Monday that the main reason for agreeing to send Semenya to Europe was to ensure she is able to race against strong fields, in the hope that such athletes would push her to attain the 5 000m qualifying mark of 15 minutes and 10 seconds (15:10.00).
“The only other thing is that luckily, the place she is in quarantine in, Gemona in Italy, there are a lot of South African athletes there. In those quarantine places, at least the athletes can train. So, what they’ve done in Gemona, it’s set out just for them,” said Verster, who is a former coach of Semenya as well.
“They have a little bus that is sanitised, and they are taken from the hotel to the track twice a day. Then they get their meals and stay in their rooms and so on.
“They have a Covid test when they leave (South Africa), and another Covid test when they leave the quarantine site. Once they have their certificates and stuff, they can start travelling.
“The main thing for her is just to get the qualification time. There is still lots of time before the Olympics. But just to get qualified, she will need the 15:10.
“She is in the shape to do it, and has been training hard. I think she can do it – it’s just a matter of finding the right race with good competition, and good weather. With Caster on that side, it’s actually better. She should be able to qualify reasonably easily if she finds the right race and right conditions.”
Semenya tried to qualify at a specially organised event in Durban late last month, but it was not to be as a strong wind affected her performance, despite running a new personal best of 15:32.15.
The cancellation of the African championships in Lagos, Nigeria later this month was also a blow to her prospects, as she was planning to run in the 5 000m at that event too.
SA athletes have until June 29 to qualify for Tokyo, so it is unclear at this stage if her time from June 30 in Liege will be considered.