Former Olympic 800 metres silver medallist Hezekiel Sepeng says he is concerned over Caster Semenya's form ahead of next month's London Olympic Games.
Semenya has not yet returned to the same form she reached in her breakthrough season in 2009 when she won the women's world 800m title in Berlin in one minute, 55.45 seconds (1:55.45) Her best so far this year was a relatively pedestrian 1:59.58 and she has not impressed against the likes of Olympic champion Pamela Jelimo of Kenya and Fantu Magiso of Ethiopia.
“This year is going to be tough. You have Jelimo and the lady from Ethiopia and we will have a Russian (in contention),” Sepeng said.
“It is going to be tough and the way Caster runs now it is a bit worrying because those ladies are just dominating her and it is not good for her motivation leading towards the Games.”
Sepeng said if he was in Semenya's shoes he would stop competing against the global elite and opt rather for a quiet build-up to the Games.
“When you stand there, athletes need to fear you, and they must not understand what you are thinking,” Sepeng said.
“She has to lead from the front. For her to win that medal she has to go in front.”
He believed the poor form of SA 400m hurdles record holder LJ van Zyl, who has a knee injury, was also a concern, with the country's medal prospects for the Games looking rather slim.
“When I compare it to last year we had Caster, LJ, Sunette (Viljoen) and we had our 4x400m relay team (who won medals at the World Championships),” he said.
“Things aren't going that good. I don't know what is happening with LJ and Caster is also not looking good.
“The 4x400m relay is a different story. It will depend on the day and our individual athletes. At the moment we have LJ, who was very strong last year, who is struggling.”
He felt, however, that Viljoen, the world javelin throw bronze medallist, and Olympic long jump silver medallist Khotso Mokoena were serious medal prospects.
“If things aren't going well at this time and you are not feeling good and you aren't getting the results, it is not good for the athletes, and it is too much pressure,” Sepeng said.
“I'm hoping LJ will come right because we need all those medals and if he can get back to those 48s again and just feel good I will be happy for him.”
Sepeng said, at this stage in their preparations, the country's top athletes should already be hitting their straps.
“I've competed in three Olympics and I've made finals in all three of them,” he said.
“Those World Championships and Commonwealth Games in between were part of the preparations for the Olympics and I made sure I was in good form and everything was perfect.
“It starts the year before and everything needs to be perfect, and that was my philosophy.” – Sapa