Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist


Some advice for Caster: Try qualifying for Tokyo by focusing on the 5,000m

It's going to take a special effort from the 800m specialist - be it in the 200m or the 5,000m - but we all know she's a special athlete.


Though she continues to fight gender regulations in court, Caster Semenya is still suspended from competing in her specialist 800m event, and her versatility will be pushed to its limits ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. In order to compete without taking hormone suppressants, Semenya must race outside the banned range of distances (400m-1,500m) for DSD athletes, and her best options for the Tokyo Games are the 200m and 5,000m events. And while she has confirmed she is likely to focus on the 200m sprint for the foreseeable future, she might have done better to go the other way by picking…

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Though she continues to fight gender regulations in court, Caster Semenya is still suspended from competing in her specialist 800m event, and her versatility will be pushed to its limits ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

In order to compete without taking hormone suppressants, Semenya must race outside the banned range of distances (400m-1,500m) for DSD athletes, and her best options for the Tokyo Games are the 200m and 5,000m events.

And while she has confirmed she is likely to focus on the 200m sprint for the foreseeable future, she might have done better to go the other way by picking the longer distance.

Her 5,000m personal best of 16:05.97 is well outside the pace of the global elite, but that rare appearance over 12-and-a-half laps in Germiston saw her outclassing long-distance specialist Dom Scott-Efurd, who has already qualified in the 5,000m event for the Tokyo Games.

Semenya can undoubtedly go quicker, and she will need to run under 15:10.00 by the end of June to guarantee her place in the national team for Tokyo, which seems to be within her reach.

Meanwhile, in the 200m event, she has clocked 23.49 seconds, but that performance was not recognised for technical reasons, and her official personal best of 23.81 is well outside the Tokyo standard of 22.80.

Already successful over a wide range of distances, Semenya holds the national records over 300m (36.78), 400m (49.62), 800m (1:54.25), 1,000m (2:30.70) and 1,500m (3:59.92), as well as the 600m world best (1:21.77).

And while she might not be in contention for the podium, she undoubtedly has the ability to qualify for the Tokyo showpiece in both the 200m and 5,000m, which would be a personal victory for the two-time Olympic 800m champion after being sidelined from her favourite distance.

To get there in the 5,000m event, however, would simply require an increase in endurance training, and though Semenya isn’t a big fan of longer distance running, she’s not scared of hard work and this seems like the safer bet.

In order to improve in the half-lap dash she needs to work on her start and technique, aspects of sprinting which can take years to get right, and this makes it a risky prospect, even for one of South Africa’s all-time greats.

And now, with all that said, Semenya will probably do what she always does to her doubters by breaking new ground in the 200m sprint and proving me wrong.

Wesley Botton

Wesley Botton.

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