GERMISTON, South Africa (Reuters) - Caster Semenya cruised to victory in the 5,000 meters at the South African athletics championships on Thursday, a potential new distance as she waits for the verdict of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in an appeal against regulations seeking to limit her testosterone level.
Semenya looked in complete control as she won in a time of 16:05.97 on the opening day of the championships, which serve as an important test for the South African team going to the World Championships in Doha in September.
Semenya made a rare run in the longer distance after earlier cruising into Friday’s final of the 1,500m with a time of 4:30.65, well below her personal best.
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Although she barely broke a sweat, her 1,500m time was nine seconds quicker than the second fastest qualifier.
The heats for the 800m, her principal event, are on Friday morning, with the final to be run on Saturday evening.
Semenya is waiting for the outcome of her appeal asking CAS to halt the introduction of new regulations by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) that would require her to take medicine to limit her natural levels of testosterone.
The IAAF wants female athletes with differences in sexual development to reduce their blood testosterone level to below a stipulated concentration for a period of six months before they can compete, to prevent any unfair advantage.
But this is limited to events ranging between 400m and a mile, and so would not include the 5,000m, leaving Semenya free to compete unhindered.
Her time on Thursday was 45 seconds slower than the best mark set in 2019 so far, but Semenya looked to be holding back before putting in her familiar sprint in the final 200 meters.
CAS is due to deliver its verdict on Semenya’s appeal before the end of April.
Meanwhile, 400m Olympic gold medalist and world record holder Wayde van Niekerk pulled out of his heat on Thursday, citing a wet track as he attempted to resume high-level competition after 18 months out.
"Sad to announce my withdrawal from the Athletics South Africa Senior Championships," Van Niekerk tweeted.
"Was looking forward to competing again on home soil after a good build-up but the weather isn’t playing along so we don't want to take any chances.
"I look forward to representing South Africa on the international circuit."
Van Niekerk injured his knee in a charity touch rugby game in October 2017 and missed the entire 2018 season.
(Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by Kevin Liffey)