Caster Semenya switches events: ‘It’s not about being at the Olympics’

Caster Semenya
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Caster Semenya, the two-time Olympic 800m champion barred from 400m through the mile unless she takes testosterone-suppressing measures due to a 2019 rule change, has switched events and raced the 5000m twice in the last month. She has not yet qualified for the Tokyo Games.

Semenya, who said in March 2020 that she was focusing on the 200m for an Olympic bid, since moved up to the 5000m, the shortest flat race beyond the 1500m on the Olympic program.

She won at the South African Championships on Thursday in 15:52.28, a personal best by 13.69 seconds, in Pretoria.

The time is well shy of the Olympic qualifying standard of 15:10. Semenya can presumably improve on it by racing closer to sea level (Pretoria is more than 4,000 feet above it) and against faster competition.

The question is whether she can go 42 seconds faster by the June 29 World Athletics deadline. Semenya might be able to qualify without reaching the standard if her world ranking in the 5000m is high enough. She is not currently ranked.

“Maybe if the guys from Durban can do something there somewhere in May,” Semenya said, according to multiple reports. “Maybe we try to go and attempt the time. It’s never too late. But if not‚ it’s not the end of the world. For me it’s not about being at the Olympics. It’s being healthy and running good times and being in the field for the longest.

“I can’t really focus on Tokyo if I’m still building up myself at the moment,” she added, according to Agence France-Presse.

In early 2020, Semenya ran a best 200m of 23.49, shy of the Olympic qualifying standard of 22.80.

“We had to look into‚ can we do 200m for the next five years? It was not really in our favor,” Semenya, 30, said, according to multiple reports. “I’m getting old‚ I’m scared to tear my muscles. We had to sit down and make sure that the decision that we make makes sense. Distance makes sense.”

Semenya’s lawyer said in November that her appeal to be allowed to race events from 400m through the mile without taking testosterone-suppressing measures was being taken to the European Court of Human Rights. A date for her case to be heard has not been announced, lessening the chances it gets resolved before the Tokyo Games.

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Teri McKeever fired by Cal as women’s swimming coach after investigation

Teri McKeever

Teri McKeever, the first woman to serve as a U.S. Olympic swimming head coach, was fired by the University of California at Berkeley after an investigation into alleged verbal and emotional abuse of swimmers that she denied.

McKeever was put on paid administrative leave from her job as head women’s swimming coach in May after an Orange County Register report that 20 current or former Cal swimmers said McKeever verbally and emotionally bullied her swimmers.

Cal athletics director Jim Knowlton wrote in a letter to the Cal team and staff that a resulting independent law firm report detailed “verbally abusive conduct that is antithetical to our most important values.”

“I strongly believe this is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our swimming program and Cal Athletics as a whole,” Knowlton said of McKeever’s firing in a press release. “The report details numerous violations of university policies that prohibit race, national origin and disability discrimination.”

The Orange County Register first published what it says is the full independent report here.

“I deny and unequivocally refute all conclusions that I abused or bullied any athlete and deny any suggestion I discriminated against any athlete on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation,” McKeever said in a statement Tuesday confirming her firing and expressing disappointment in how the investigation was conducted. “While I am disappointed in the way my CAL Career will conclude, I wish to thank and celebrate the many student-athletes and staff that made my time in Berkeley a true blessing and gift.”

McKeever’s lawyer wrote that McKeever “will be filing suit to expose the manner in which gender has affected not only the evaluation of her coaching but harmed and continues to harm both female and male athletes.”

McKeever led Cal women’s swimming and diving for nearly 30 years, winning four NCAA team titles and coaching Olympic champions including Missy FranklinNatalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer.

In 2004, she became the first woman to be on a U.S. Olympic swim team coaching staff, as an assistant. In 2012, she became the first woman to be head coach of a U.S. Olympic swim team. She was an assistant again for the Tokyo Games.

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Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

Diana Taurasi

Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

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