Tokyo Olympics: Namibian athlete says 'You can't tell me now I am not a woman'

By Celestine KaroneyBBC Sport Africa, Tokyo
Namibian athlete Beatrice Masilingi
Namibian athlete Beatrice Masilingi in the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo

Namibia's Beatrice Masilingi is getting ready for the biggest moment of her young athletics career having had to recover from her most upsetting one.

The 18-year-old says she is thrilled to be competing in the women's 200m at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics when the heats begin on Monday.

But the 200m is only a second choice event for her and she had been preparing to compete in the 400m. in which she was a genuine medal contender after setting the third fastest time this year of 49.53 seconds.

Her initial excitement at an Olympic qualification however was crushed when she was informed by World Athletics that she would not be able to compete in the 400m event at the Games due to high levels of testosterone.

"In the beginning I was very down, you can't come and tell me now I am not a woman. That is really frustrating and gets me on my nerves but there's nothing we can do about it at the moment," she told BBC Sport Africa.

"It was very disappointing, it was very upsetting as well, I was looking forward to my first Diamond League when I saw the news."

"It is really unfair because you cannot expect everyone to be the same, everyone to have the same abilities, we are born with different abilities, we can't be the same it doesn't make sense."

Masilingi was only informed in July by World Athletics that her testosterone levels were beyond the allowed limit for female athletes wanting to run in distances from 400m to one mile, unless they medically lower their testosterone for a period of at least six months

Despite her disappointment the teenager is determined to make the most of her Olympic moment.

"I am very excited, it has been one of my biggest goals but I didn't really think I would achieve at this age," Masilingi told BBC Sport Africa.

Christine Mboma of Namibia on the track
Namibian teenager Christine Mboma - who broke the World 400m Under-20s record this year - won't be allowed to run the event at the Olympics

To keep her Olympic dream alive Masilingi and her training partner Christine Mboma, who is also affected by the rules, decided to change their training and prepare instead for the 200m just a few weeks before the Games.

"Obviously, that set us back in a big way. The thing is we had to adjust and try our best and I am so proud of the two girls the way they are adjusting and the way they are working," the duo's coach Henk Botha said.

Masilingi refuses to set a target for the Olympics but says she is excited once again to compete despite the earlier disappointment.

"I still have another chance, I still have a 200m I can still compete in so I shouldn't demolish myself because of the event that has been taken from me. I can still have the excitement that I had for the 400m," she said.

"I am just trying not to be too much on social media because I am sure that would bring some pressure on me and I am trying to limit everything I am doing at the moment because I am not experienced enough to take this."

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