Caster Semenya will make a last-ditch attempt to qualify for the Olympic Games when she races over 5000m at a meeting in Belgium this week.
The 30-year-old South African is banned from competing in any race from 400m to a mile after the sport’s governing body World Athletics ruled in 2018 that to ensure fair competition, women with high natural testosterone levels must take medication to reduce them to compete in middle-distance races.
The double Olympic 800m champion, who refuses to take any medication to alter her testosterone levels, has been left with the 5000m as her best chance to go to the Tokyo Games but her efforts so far to finish inside the qualifying mark of 15:10.00 have failed.
She has had two attempts since winning the South African 5,000m title in Pretoria in April but her fastest time was 15:32.15 at a meeting in Durban last month that was specially arranged to offer her an opportunity.
Semenya then left to race in Europe where she felt she had a better chance to qualify alongside stronger runners but in Regensburg, Germany on June 19 could not do better than fourth, in 15:57.12.
Wednesday’s meeting in Liege, part of World Athletics’ Continental Tour, will be her last chance. The International Olympic Committee has set Tuesday as the last chance for athletics to qualify for Tokyo but Athletics South Africa are understood to have secured her one day’s grace.
Hopes of an invitation to the Olympics are unlikely as 44 women have already qualified for the 42 places in the Tokyo 5000m race. The heats are on July 30 and the final on Aug. 2.
Semenya continues to challenge the World Athletics ruling and has taken her case to the European Court of Human Rights but the case is unlikely to be completed by the time the Tokyo Games begin on July 23.
Last year she attempted the 200m as an alternative, and lowered her personal best from 24.26 to 23.49, but still well outside of the Olympic qualifying mark of 22.80. She then abandoned plans in favour of the much longer distance as she said she feared injury.