Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba, the 2016 Olympic 800m silver medalist who cannot race that distance anymore unless she takes testosterone-suppressing measures, ran an Olympic qualifying time in a different event, the 5000m, on Tuesday.
Niyonsaba clocked 14:54.38 at a meet in Montreuil, France, easily clearing the Olympic standard of 15:10.
No other woman from Burundi has ever run 15:10, according to World Athletics. A nation can qualify no more than three athletes to the Games in track and field events.
All three of the Rio Olympic 800m medalists — Caster Semenya, Niyonsaba and Margaret Wambui — said they are impacted by a rule instituted in 2019 that caps testosterone levels in women’s events from 400m through the mile for athletes with differences of sexual development (DSD). World Athletics said that no female athletes would have a level above the cap — five nanomoles per liter — unless they had a DSD or a tumor.
Niyonsaba, 28, announced in February that she was moving up to the 5000m for a Tokyo Olympic bid. She ran her first 5000m on May 22 in 15:12.08, then the fastest recorded time for a woman from Burundi, according to World Athletics.
Semenya also moved up to the 5000m this year with a best time so far of 15:52.28. Semenya can also qualify for the Olympic 5000m via world ranking if she does not hit the 15:10 standard but reportedly said in April that “it’s not about being at the Olympics.”
“It’s being healthy and running good times and being in the field for the longest,” the 30-year-old said, according to multiple reports. “We had to look into‚ can we do 200m for the next five years? It was not really in our favor. 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.”
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A challenge is not a barrier. It’s an opportunity to do better. Heading to Tokyo with a great qualifying time of 14.54.38 (PB) in 5k#nevergiveup #PB #NationalRecord #RoadtoTokyo2021 #determination #mentalforce#meetingmonteuil2021 pic.twitter.com/gcQqnOMw6b
— Francine Niyonsaba (@FrancineNiyons4) June 2, 2021