Semenya still managed to post the second fastest 1500m time of her career, crossing the line in 4:00.44. Covering the first three laps in Lausanne at a suicidal pace, Semenya’s wheels came off with 200 metres to go.
“The last 200m I just had nothing left, I thought I would be able to change the last gear but it wasn’t there and it wasn’t meant to be,” Semenya said.
“There was just no movement, there was no power from 200m. I ran a good race but at 200m I couldn’t lift the legs.”
Semenya decided to stay with a flying Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia, who desperately tried to shake the South African.
“I’ve never chased someone like that in my whole life but I knew we are going to chase Tsegay,” she said. “Of course you need to run your own race and at the end of the day you need to try your best but it just wasn’t meant to be.”
With her tank running on empty, the world’s best two-lap racer had to watch as the rest of the pack moved past her. American Shelby Houlihan produced a ruthless kick winning the race clocking the second fastest time in the world this year of 3:57.34.
She was followed by Great Britain’s Laura Muir in second place with 3:58.18 and Sifan Hassan of The Netherlands in third place posting 3:58.39. Semenya was left perplexed about how she had let the race slip from her grasp, with coach Samuel Sepeng looking to find answers in the post-mortem.
“It is about planning, we will have to go back to the drawing board and see what happened today,” Sepeng said.
“But I am happy, we planned for this race and we knew how it was going to be at 2:05 pace and whoever goes we need to go with.”
This follows in the wake of Semenya’s greatest performance yet in the 800m in Paris over the weekend. The middle-distance ace clocked the fourth fastest two-lap time of all-time, winning the Diamond League race with a time of 1:54.25.
In Paris, their tactic paid off where she made her move with 300 metres to go instead of producing her customary kick with half a lap until the finish. In the 1500m she received some of her own medicine, with Houlihan surging over the final three-quarter lap to claim the victory.
“We learn from mistakes, we know where we are lacking and we know what we need to run a good 1500m,” Semenya said.
“I am quite amazed I could hang on till 1300m - if I die at the last 200m it is nothing, it is something I can work on.”
The South African will now turn her focus back to the 800m at the Rabat Diamond League meeting next Friday.
* De Villiers was in Lausanne courtesy of the IAAF