Semenya fails to qualify

2010-07-08 00:00

CASTER Semenya’s 11-month exile from competition put paid to her return to international athletics when the world 800 metres champion failed to meet the required times in a specially arranged time trial yesterday morning.

The Pretoria-based athlete was officially given the green light to return to competition after a landmark ruling by the IAAF late on Tuesday.

In welcoming her back into the fold, Athletics South Africa (ASA) quickly arranged for a fitness test that it hoped would justify the late selection of the athlete to the team for the World Junior championships in Canada from July 19.

Semenya made two attempts at running a 600 mtres time trial in one minute 32 seconds or less, but failed to make the mark on either occasion.

“She ran 1:38 and she had a five-minute break, then she ran 1:35,” said her coach, Michael Seme, a national selector.

“[ASA] 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.”

The 19-year-old last competed at the Berlin World Championships in August where she scorched the track in one minute 55,45 seconds to win the gold medal and world crown.

There is little doubt that the 11-month lay-off — and just as likely the emotional release of Tuesday night’s celebrations at Sandton, where she watched Holland beat Uruguay — will have had an effect on yesterday’s performance.

A couple of weeks more intense training should put her in the frame for a team place for the African Championships in Nairobi on July 28.

It expected that she will be provisionally named as part of the team due to be announced later today, but whether she can reach the peak levels she achieved last August remains to be seen.

More likely is that it will take until the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in October before she realistically becomes a medal contender.

“I’m back, yeah, I’m back,” she declared during Tuesday night’s celebratory dinner. “I’m delighted — I was born to run.”

Certainly no one could deny the athlete her right to feeling emotionally drained after a period of deplorable public scrutiny, but she and the sport will be looking forward to a resumption to “normal” in the coming weeks.

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