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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

Lagos withdraw as hosts of African Champs as Semenya runs out of competitions to qualify for Tokyo

Caster Semenya's hopes of using the African Championships to qualify for the Olympic Games have been dashed after it was revealed that Nigeria have pulled out as hosts. Just last week, the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) announced that the 22nd senior track and field championships would be hosted by the city of Lagos in Nigeria from 23-27 June. The West Africans had come in as last minute hosts to save the competition following Algeria's withdrawal citing the health and safety risks associated with hosting large numbers of people in their country during the global Covid19 pandemic.

But #TheTopRunner has learnt that the Nigerian coastal city has also withdrawn following a decision by the government. According to the Nigerian Federal Minister of Youth and Sport Development hosting the championships would "constitute a threat to the gains that have been made by the national response in mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic."

The hustle and bustle of Lagos Nigeria. Photo Credit: Wix.

It means that the competition is without a host less than three weeks before it is scheduled to kickoff, while Semenya is fast running out of time to qualify for #Tokyo2021. Despite running a new 5000m personal best of 15:32 at the Newton Classic Qualifier in Durban a week ago, the double Olympic 800m champion still fell more than 20 seconds short of the qualifying standard. The Cobra has been forced to abandon her preferred 800m and run the 5000m after World Athletics introduced new laws banning female athletes like her with naturally higher levels of testosterone from competing in events from 400m to 1500m. Speaking after the race Semenya suggested she would consider using the African Championships to book her ticket to Japan.

Athletics South Africa High Performance Manager Hezekiel Sepeng revealed that ASA were due to announce their final squad to Lagos soon. "We have released a preliminary squad. We can call it a preparation squad. Next week we will release a final team for Nigeria," said the 800m Olympic silver medalist on the day when the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee released the names of the athletes who will represent the country in The Land of The Rising Sun.

Semenya in action at Rio 2016 where she won gold in the 800m. Photo Credit: Roger Sedres.

With the Olympic qualification window set to close on 29 June, Semenya is one of the four Team SA hopefuls who won track and field medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics but are yet to book their spots in the 2021 team. 400m record holder Wayde Van Nierkerk and Javelin sensation Sunette Viljoen who earned silver five years ago are both still chasing Olympic qualification. Meanwhile, Luvo Manyonga is out of the picture as he was suspended for failing a doping whereabouts test.

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