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Golds aside, Semenya has a plan for records

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JOHANNESBURG - Possibly adding the 2011 World Championships and London 2012 Olympic titles to her gold from Rio 2016 has earned Caster Semenya the title of “gold digger” since Russian rival Mariya Savinova was recently found guilty of doping.

The Court of Arbitration of Sport last month imposed a four-year ban on Savinova and stripped her of the golds she won at London 2012 and the world championships the year before.

Semenya, who finished second behind Savinova in both races, is in line to be upgraded from silver to gold pending the Russian’s appeal of the ban.

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Olympic champion Caster Semenya has targeted more gold medals and record times as she builds up the IAAF World Championships. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA

Speaking after her opening race of the season at the ASA Speed Series in Potchefstroom on Wednesday evening, Semenya said she had no ill feelings towards Savinova. “At the end of the day it is about sportsmanship; she is a great athlete, technically if you talk about rules and things like that it works in my favour,” Semenya said.

“But it doesn’t change anything for me, I still have goals, I still want to win more gold medals. I have to chase records.”

Semenya has always maintained that earning the gold medals due to Savinova’s indiscretions would be something of an empty victory.

Last year Semenya rounded off her season, in which she dominated every race, with the 800m at the Rio Olympics.

“For me it doesn’t change anything, when I cross the line in second place it doesn’t matter whether an athlete has been suspended or disqualified,” Semenya said.

“Here we are not talking about possibilities but reality, obviously in medal records it looks great where you see gold, gold, gold.

“You even having people calling me a ‘gold digger’ which is fantastic, but I have respect for each and every athlete no matter from which background you come from or what you have done wrong.”

In the build-up to Rio, international media obsessed over whether Semenya would break former Czech runner Jarmila Kratochvilova’s world-record time of 1:53.28.

Semenya raced home in Rio posting a time of 1:55.28 and shaving 0.05sec off her previous best to climb from 12th to 11th on the world all-time list.

Her national record is more than a second off 2008 Olympic champion Pamela Jelimo of Kenya’s continental record of 1:54.01. Jelimo (in 2008) has been the only athlete in the last three decades to come close to Kratochvilova’s world mark.

Taking an extended break from the track and getting married to long-time girlfriend Violet Raseboya at the beginning of the year, Semenya said she was a long way off her best.

On Wednesday evening she opened her season in a rare 3000m, posting a time of 9:36.29, improving her personal best by almost 20 seconds in only her second race over this distance.

“You can’t talk about records if you are behind schedule, all you can do is try to maintain the performances from last year and try to stick to a 1:55 pace,” Semenya said.

“Who knows if I can go faster than that but the main focus is the world championships and running faster times. The world record is obviously something that is on my mind when I look at the splits that they run.”

Setting the mark over the more than 33 years ago in Munich, Kratochvilova’s first lap took 56.1sec, and she ran the second 400m in 57.2sec.

“If you look at the world record holder she has something like a 47-second PB (over 400m). If I want to get closer to her record I need to at least run 49 seconds,” said Semenya, whose best is 50.40sec.

“If you look at her world record splits, she did a 56-57, so I believe in going fast over the first lap then just hanging on.

“If I have a 49, then I can say maybe I am ready, then check the 400m splits and the 600m then maybe we can talk.”

Cape Argus

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