Olympic silver medallist Caster Semenya says she is still keen to compete in this year’s athletics world championships but her coach says the 800 metres specialist might have to considering giving up on the season.
The mixed messages from the Semenya camp came a week after the 22-year-old was removed from the list of elite athletes who are funded by South Africa’s Olympic committee because she was allegedly not training.
Semenya, laid low in recent months by trouble with her left knee, said she had been working towards another tilt at the world title when the championships are hosted in Moscow in August.
“I’m back in training. I just need a couple of weeks to qualify. It’s my dream to win my title back. That is what I’m planning with the coach,” she said on South African television on Wednesday.
I'm back in training. I just need a couple of weeks to qualify. It's my dream to win my title back. That is what I'm planning with the coach
However, her coach Maria Mutola said Semenya was still some way off being competitive and a decision on possibly calling off the rest of season might have to be made in the next weeks.
“We might have to call off the season. I think that her wellbeing comes first. So in the next coming weeks we will sit down and make a decision,” said the former Mozambican runner who was a dominant force in the 800m in her career.
“We have to consider if she can run good times. It would be unfair to expect her to run with some of the best athletes while she’s not 100 percent,” Mutola told South African media on Thursday.
“As far as her progress is concerned, we are a little bit behind, and we just have to see how things go.”
Mutola was critical of the decision to cut Semenya’s funding and contradicted the Olympic Committee’s assertion that she was not training.
“She trains three times a week with me so I don’t understand what they mean by that. I think I’m content with her progress especially considering her injury problems,” said Mutola.
Semenya said of the funding cut: “Maybe it was because I did not run the South African season because of my injury. But being in a programme or not, I will still be the same athlete.”
It is the latest controversy around Semenya, whose rise from rural obscurity to world champion in 2009 catapulted her into an often uncomfortable spotlight.
She was forced to undergo gender testing after her 2009 world championships triumph and last year accused of not trying hard enough at the Olympics in London, where she finished second.