Caster should not be in dire straits

It will be a crying shame if South Africa’s most outstanding athlete, Caster Semenya, does not participate in next month’s World Championships in Moscow.

With Monday the deadline for qualifying, Semenya will have  to sparkle tonight at the Memorial Rasschaert   Flanders Cup in Ninove, Belgium.

If Athletics South Africa  (ASA) are lenient and allow her in with a B-standard qualifier, she could get away with running the 800m in 2:01.50. That’s quite a bit faster than her two most recent competition times. Semenya ran  2:06.58 at Finland’s  Lahti Games last week and followed up with  2:04.48 at the Savo Games in the same country.

ASA have already let in a large B-standard group, but that’s not really Semenya’s class. To qualify on the A-standard she’ll have to break two minutes. On a track where the record is 1:59.67, that’s no easy task.

How did it come to this? Our golden girl, who won  the 2009 World Championships in Berlin with a superb 1:55.45  followed up by taking a comfortable silver in the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.

When she came second in the London Olympics in 1:57.23, she looked as though she could have clocked a much faster time. After a laboriously pedestrian start she dramatically closed the gap on eventual winner, Russian world champion Mariya Savinova.

Since then it’s all been downhill as she’s struggled to recuperate from a knee operation. To go from gold, to silver to failure to qualify in three successive World Championships is not unheard of but Semenya always seemed capable of more.

She  is a remarkable athlete and she could still pull off something special tonight. Her agent Jukka Harkonen seems  to think she merely has to change her tactics.

Her chances would have been better if  Sascoc had been more supportive and not excluded  her from its Operation Excellence programme


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