Tokyo Olympics

Covid-19 gives Semenya more time to fight case against IAAF - Jobodwana

Anaso Jobodwana (Gallo)
Anaso Jobodwana (Gallo)

South African Olympic 200m sprinter Anaso Jobodwana says the Covid-19 pandemic that's caused the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Games to next year could gift track team-mate Caster Semenya valuable time to fight her case against the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

Semenya lost her case against the IAAF at the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) last year, which meant she would have to take hormone suppressing drugs in order to compete in her favoured 800m and 1 500m middle distance races.

She has since appealed the ruling at the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland. The double Olympic and triple world 800m champion, who has refused to take the now-mandated testosterone-lowering drugs, competed in 200m events earlier this year as an attempt to qualify for the Tokyo Games through shorter distances.

"This period gives Caster more time to fight her case," Jobodwana said.

"That's been spoken about too many times and we all know that it sucks. I saw her do the 200m and her first race was not too bad. I think she can still qualify, if she does the 200m only.

"She's still fighting and she's got a good team behind her. It would be very, very weird not to have Caster at the Olympics, honestly. The world would notice, too."

Jobodwana said Semenya, 29, was a calming influence on Team South Africa as a whole at international events, something they would miss should she fail to qualify for the 200m and fail to get the CAS ruling overturned.

"At my first Olympics (London 2012) she was there and I was so star-struck. 'Gees, this is Caster,' you know that kind of feeling?" he said.

"Ever since then, it's been so nice to have her on the team because she brings so much calmness to others.

"We'd be having lunch or dinner at the hotel and you'd see how calm and relaxed she is and you ask yourself why you're panicking and why you're stressed. It's going to be very sad if we don't see her there."

Jobodwana also stands to benefit from the year-long postponement of the Tokyo Games, as will a number of other SA medal hopefuls such as 400m Olympic champion Wayde van Niekerk.

The 27-year-old had struggled with injury over the past couple of years but said he was getting back to his best before the pandemic put paid to the athletics season.

"I was feeling really good actually," Jobodwana said from his Phoenix, US, base.

"I think it was the best I've felt since 2015. For me, I was running some pretty eye-catching times in training.

"I was going to start competing 21 March, which was going to be a good way to see if the training actually translate in competition.

"I was excited about the season. This was the first time that I was running well, with no niggles and had a very good schedule on top of the rehab work I was doing.

"My coach (Stuart McMillan) was even telling me that I was starting to come along. He'd increased my stride length again, which was something over the years I've struggled with - not because it was hard but I thought I'd reached my maximum stride length in training.  

"But he got me comfortable with a stride length of 2.4m and my top speed was starting to look decent, even for a 100m race. We've got an extra year to hone in on our skills, even without the competitions and that's the way I look at it."

Jobodwana added that the 2021 Games would have added importance after the tragic events of the Covid-19 epidemic.

"At the end of all of this, the Olympics is probably going to be a celebration of the human race as a whole being able to overcome adversity. The whole world is going to congregate in one big stadium, so that's going to be something special to watch especially after all that has happened," he said.

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