Sunday Times



Caster Semenya returned to the track for the first time in more than a year yesterday, finishing second in the 5,000m at the Gauteng North championsh­ips in Pretoria. She has yet to qualify for the Olympics in this event. Glenrose Xaba came first.

● Sprint ace Akani Simbine defied a “super annoying” headwind to deliver the 27th subtenner of his career at the Gauteng North championsh­ips in Pretoria yesterday.

He clocked 9.99sec over 100m despite a three-metres-per-second onslaught from the south to claim the provincial title and move into second spot on the world list for 2021. A wind-converting programme suggested his effort was actually worth 9.87, even lower than his 9.89 SA record.

If anyone is a good early bet for an Olympic medal at the Tokyo Games, it’s the consistent Simbine.

Courtroom warrior Caster Semenya returned to her favourite battlegrou­nd, the track, but she was well beaten into second place in the 5,000m at the Tuks stadium.

She finished in 16min 14.43sec — slower than her 16:05.97 personal best — and she was unable to respond when Glenrose Xaba attacked with three laps remaining. Xaba finished in a 16:00.32 best.

Semenya, who last competed more than a year ago, is venturing into territory that is 3,500m beyond her comfort zone, and it showed.

If she’s planning to qualify for the Olympics in this event, only she will know how she plans to do it. The time for automatic entry is 15:10.00.

Semenya abandoned her premier races — the 800m, 400m and 1,500m — as she refused to accede to World Athletics’ gender regulation­s that require her to take medication to lower her naturally high levels of testostero­ne.

The Olympic 800m champion at London 2012 and Rio 2016, whose appeal to the European Court of Human Rights will not be heard before the Tokyo Games, has been forced to compete in distances beyond that band.

Last year she tried the 200m and though she produced a career-best 23.49sec, she was way off the 22.80 entry standard. She seemed to lack the explosive power required for that event.

Her only other option is the 5,000m. Semenya left the track without speaking to the media yesterday, so at this stage her intentions remain the subject of speculatio­n.

Simbine was all smiles after the final, having gone 10.13 in the heats and 10.24 in the semifinals. “The plan was to go sub-10 the whole day, but at least I got one. The wind’s been super annoying.”

He’s in action again on Tuesday against Wayde van Niekerk and Anaso Jobodwana over 200m in the second Athletix Invitation­al at Ruimsig. Luxolo Adams is out, however, after getting injured here.

Finishing second behind Simbine was Gift Leotlela, the 2016 Olympian who has been hampered by a series of injuries to his back, hamstrings and more recently a knee tendon. He clocked 10.20, his fastest time since 2017. “It’s great to see him back,” said Simbine. “Gift has the potential to be one of the greats.”

 ?? Picture: Christiaan Kotze/C&C Photograph­ic Agency ??
Picture: Christiaan Kotze/C&C Photograph­ic Agency
 ?? Picture: © Christiaan Kotze ?? Speed king Akani Simbine.
Picture: © Christiaan Kotze Speed king Akani Simbine.

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