South Africa’s Caster Semenya to make her competitive comeback at Finnish event on July 15

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Semenya to make comeback in Finland

HELSINKI — Caster Semenya will make her comeback in Finland at the Lappeenranta Games on July 15.

“She is really looking forward to the competition but is not expecting anything great,” her manager Jukka Harkonen said Thursday. “She’s in the middle of her training right now, but needs the experience of competing again.”

Semenya, who has not raced competitively since winning the 800-meter world title in Berlin in August 2009, was cleared to return Tuesday by the International Association of Athletics Federations. That ended an 11-month stalemate over her status following gender verification tests and means she can continue running as a woman.

Later Thursday, the 19-year-old Semenya appeared relaxed and happy as she trained with a group of young athletes on a grass track at her regular base at the High Performance Center in Pretoria, South Africa.

Semenya laughed and joked with fellow runners as they performed stretches and warmup exercises. Wearing a bright pink top, she then ran alongside other athletes in a series of 200-meter drills before ending with a light jog around the track.

The training session was conducted by Semenya’s coach, Michael Seme.

Seme said Wednesday that the 800-meter world champion was not fit enough to compete at the world junior championships in Canada from July 19-25.

Semenya ran two 600-meter trials in Pretoria but her times were “not good enough for an 800-meter runner,” according to her coach.

Seme said she was looking to run in “one or two” smaller meets in Europe before making her return to major competition at the African championships in Kenya, which begin July 28. “We can’t go straight to a big meeting,” Seme said in South Africa, “so we are preparing for one or two races before that.”

Harkonen said they had chosen Lappeenranta because the venue was “suitable.”

“I suppose there is also a link, what with me being a Finn and her manager,” Harkonen said.

Jarmo Viskari, a spokesman for the meet in southeastern Finland, said Harkonen was closely connected to the one-day competition.

“We have a long history with her manager and he felt that the Lappeenranta Games is nice because it’s not too big but there are enough international athletes,” Viskari said. “We are now expecting a lot of spectators.”

Harkonen said that Semenya might also make an appearance at the Lapinlahti Games on July 17.

“That’s under consideration, too,” he said. “Let’s see.”

AP Sports Writer Gerald Imray in Pretoria contributed to this report.

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