Caster gets lifeline after Athletics SA announce 5 Tokyo Olympics qualifying events

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Caster Semenya. (Photo by Phill Magakoe / AFP)
Caster Semenya. (Photo by Phill Magakoe / AFP)

Olympic gold medallist Caster Semenya will get a few opportunities to secure her Tokyo Olympics qualification thanks to Athletics South Africa's (ASA) help.

The 2021 African Athletics Championships, which was scheduled for 23-27 June in Lagos, was cancelled due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The cancellation of the continental showpiece would've robbed several South African athletes of securing an Olympic qualification and others of much-needed competition before next month's Games.

ASA revealed in a press release that they will host six domestic competitions in several provinces.

"This can still be utilised by our athletes to qualify before the Olympic Games deadline of 29 June for all events (excluding the Marathon and 50km Race Walk). They may also be used for preparation for those who have already qualified," read its statement.

Semenya, who is a double 800m Olympic gold medallist, is trying to secure her place in Team SA's Olympic squad in the 5 000m.

The 30-year-old was denied an opportunity to compete in the 800m when governing body World Athletics enacted regulations prohibiting women with differences of sexual development (DSD) from competing in events ranging from 400m to the mile - unless they took hormone suppressors.

Semenya has since refused to take the testosterone-suppressing drugs and recently took her case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Last month, Semenya failed in her latest attempt to achieve a 5 000m Olympic qualifying time (15min10sec) when she clocked 15min32.15sec in Durban.

The first event is set from 12-19 June with the last qualifying event scheduled on 9-10 July.

"While this is an unfortunate development, we understand that Covid-19 remains a threat and continues to be disruptive in everything we do," said James Moloi, the President of Athletics South Africa.

"Most of Africa and indeed, the major part of the world, is still being held hostage by the pandemic.

"It’s a pity, therefore, that our athletes will not be benefitting from the great competition that the African Champs offer and it’s unlikely that there will be another opportunity to host the continental event before the Olympic Games.

"However, this is not entirely a lost course for our athletes who are still looking for competition to qualify for the Games as there are several competitions that are available in our domestic calendar at our ASA provinces.

"We urge coaches and their athletes to make use of these opportunities which offer a variety including middle distance and track & field. They must keep in touch with the 17 provinces to find out what other useful competitions are available before the Olympic cut-off date.

"For those who have already qualified, the same domestic competitions can be used for preparations, especially because most are used by international athletes who are holding camps in South Africa and thus add to needed competition. KZN Athletics, for instance, will include the 5000m events in their Middle Distance Meeting."

The Tokyo Olympics is scheduled to get underway from 23 July to 8 August.

The following are some of the key events identified by ASA for athletes and coaches:

12-19 June - League Meeting 3-5, Athletics Gauteng North

12 June - WPA Middle Distance Meeting, Western Province Athletics

12,19 and 26 June - Field Events (PV, LJ,TJ), Boland Athletics

18 June - KZNA Middle Distance Meeting, KwaZulu Natal Athletics

26 June - Open Meeting, Athletics Central North West

9-10 July - Olympic Preparation Meeting, KwaZulu Natal Athletics

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