Se­menya to be ret­ro­spec­tively awarded gold

CityPress - - Sport - SIMNIKIWE XABANISA sport@city­press.co.za

The de­ci­sion by the Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport to ban Rus­sia’s Mariya Savi­nova-Farnosova for four years and strip her of her 2012 Olympic gold medal means South African 800m run­ner Caster Se­menya is in line to be­come SA’s great­est ath­lete.

The ret­ro­spec­tive sanc­tion­ing of Savi­nova-Farnosova for dop­ing un­der Rus­sia’s in­fa­mous state-spon­sored dop­ing pro­gramme will see Se­menya, who fin­ished sec­ond to Savi­nova-Farnosova in Lon­don while still coached by Michael Seme, be­lat­edly up­graded to gold.

Se­menya, who won gold at the Rio Olympics last year, will now be­come a dou­ble Olympic 800m cham­pion.

But the more cu­ri­ous de­tail is that with the Lau­sanne-based in­de­pen­dent in­sti­tu­tion hav­ing tracked Savi­nova-Farnosova’s dop­ing from 2010 to 2013 and her re­sults from those years dis­qual­i­fied, Se­menya could be in line for an­other gold medal, hav­ing been pipped to the line by the Rus­sian at the 2011 World Cham­pi­onships in Daegu, South Korea.

If that is the case, her cur­rent coach, Jean Ver­ster, says his ath­lete could be­come South Africa’s great­est ath­lete overnight at the age of just 26.

“We’re wait­ing to hear about that [whether the 2011 World Cham­pi­onships re­sult will also be bumped up], but it might mean an­other gold there,” he said.

“She could be a dou­ble Olympic cham­pion and a dou­ble world cham­pion, which would make her our great­est ath­lete.

“That would make for quite a re­mark­able ca­reer, given that she’s still got some way to go.”

Asked how he and his ath­lete felt about the de­layed hon­our, Ver­ster stopped short of call­ing it an an­ti­cli­max: “I spoke to her and we both agree – it’s not the same. We weren’t there on the podium and there was no na­tional an­them [in 2012 and 2011], so it’s kind of wa­ter un­der the bridge for us.

“It’s not the same feel­ing as it was in the Rio Olympics last year. It is nice to know that they are catch­ing the cheats five years down the line, though, but it’s noth­ing to get ex­cited about for us.”

On whether the be­lated gold medal could mean a de­layed wind­fall from Se­menya’s spon­sors, who usu­ally have in­cen­tives based on the colour of the medal won by the ath­lete, Ver­ster said they were not ex­pect­ing any­thing.

“I spoke to her man­ager Jukka [Härkö­nen] and he said, un­for­tu­nately, with spon­sors, we can­not go back and claim any­thing now.

“I haven’t heard from gov­ern­ment or the SA Sports Con­fed­er­a­tion and Olympic Com­mit­tee, but we are not hold­ing our breath be­cause bud­gets would have been drawn for that time and it would be dif­fi­cult to go back.”

Ver­ster said it was com­fort­ing to know that dop­ers could be caught so long af­ter cheat­ing.

“It’s good to know that even if you cheat, many years down the line you can get caught.

“I hope that acts as a de­ter­rent for the cheats out there.”

PHOTO: CLIVE BRUNSKILL / GETTY IMAGES

GOLDEN GIRL Caster Se­menya along­side Mariya Savi­no­vaFarnosova and bronze medal­list Eka­te­rina Pois­to­gova of Rus­sia at the 2012 Lon­don Olympic Games

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