Olympic silver medallist Caster Semenya appears likely to miss next month's world championships after she was left off an initial list of South African athletes on Friday to compete in Moscow, having struggled over the past year to get over an old injury.
Athletics South Africa said the team would be finalized on July 29 to give athletes a last opportunity to qualify, but the 2009 world champion and 2011 worlds silver medallist in the 800 metres has been inactive for much of this season with a knee injury and ran for the first time since the London Olympics only this week.
Semenya won a lower-level 800 race in Finland on Wednesday in a sluggish 2 minutes, 6.58 seconds and has only 10 days to clock a qualifying time of 2:00 or better to make the worlds.
The initial 30-member team of track and field, marathon and race walking athletes included 400 hurdler LJ van Zyl and javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen — both bronze-medal winners at the last worlds in Daegu. Promising 400 runner Wayde van Niekerk, who set an 'A' qualifying time of 45.09 seconds this season, also made the team.
But the 22-year-old Semenya is South Africa's best track athlete and has had the most success recently with three medals at her first three major meets.
Her career has often been troubled, beginning with the contentious world title in Berlin and a resulting yearlong layoff following gender tests. It was further complicated this year when her agent told the South African Press Association that she had long been hampered by an old knee injury and an operation years back that was poorly carried out.
"The knee injury is a very old one that she picked up when she was young, about 12 years old," Jukka Harkonen told SAPA last month."That operation was not a very good one and the knee has been a big problem during all these years."
Semenya's likely absence at the worlds in three weeks follows on from the withdrawal of several stars, including men's 800 Olympic champion and world record-holder David Rudisha of Kenya, who also is recovering from a knee injury. Defending world 100 champion Yohan Blake of Jamaica pulled out this week with a hamstring injury, while leading U.S. sprinter Tyson Gay won't run in Russia after a failed doping test.