New PB's for Mashele and Semenya - but no Olympic Qualification
Although they failed to hit the Olympic qualifying standards, Precious Mashele and Caster Semenya set the Kings Park Athletics Stadium track alight in Durban during yesterday's Newton Classic Qualifier.
The special event organized by the Newton Agency was aimed at giving athletes the opportunity to qualify for the rescheduled 2021 Tokyo Olympics Games. In the men's 5 000m event, a mouthwatering field including Precious Mashele, Mbuleli Mathanga and Melikhaya Frans was assembled with the goal of clocking 13:13 to be on the plane to Japan come July. The South African arsenal were blown away by two Kenyans Ayub Kiptum and Daniel Simiu Ebenyo, who raced into the lead right from the start.
Frans, who is the national 30km record holder charged forward to take the lead after three laps but failed to maintain the pace as Ebenyo recovered quickly. From then on it was his race. The 25-year-old Ebenyo managed to cross the line first in 13:11 which was within the Olympic qualification time, while Mashele settled for second-place in 13:23, slicing his previous best time by four seconds.
But the 31 year-old Mashele, who is coached by former New York Marathon winner Hendrick Ramaala is yet to throw in the towel on his Olympic dream. This tenacious athlete believes the windy condition in the coastal city was too much on the day. "I'm happy for posting yet another personal best today over the 5 000m distance," explains the SA Half Marathon Champion.
"The wind was too much to handle on the day for us but I must salute the guy (Ebenyo) who was brought to push us on race day. He did very well. I'll see what next for me after I consult with coach Ramaala but qualifying for the Olympics is still possible if I can get more races," he said.
Semenya failed her bid to go below the 15:10 mark over 5 000m. The Cobra nevertheless delivered a good performance as she chopped over 20 seconds off her PB to win the race in 15:32, after battling with training partner Glenrose Xaba. The 30 year old double Olympic champion is running out time to book her ticket to Asia because the qualification window closes on the 29th of June.
Semenya is one of the four Team SA hopefuls who won track and field medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics but are yet to book their spots in the 2021 team which was named on Thursday. 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. Semenya's next opportunity to qualify will probably be at the African Champions in Lagos next month.