LAUSANNE, Switzarland - Caster Semenya was dazzling over the 800m in Paris and plans on more sizzle when she lines up for the three-and-three-quarter laps event here on Thursday night.
The best screenwriters could not have asked for a better script as Semenya will line up just a stone’s throw away from where the legal battle over the IAAF’s female classification regulations will be fought at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Semenya has quietly and defiantly continued her quest for world domination; racing to the fourth fastest 800m time ever to win the Paris Diamond League over the weekend, clocking one minute, 54.25 seconds (1:54.25).
She may not be as well versed in the tactics of the 1500m but she is expected to chop away at her personal best and edge her way closer to another world record. Semenya’s personal best of 3:59.92 is nearly 10 seconds off Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia’s world record.
It may seem a bit premature and overly ambitious to suggest Semenya is capable of threatening the 3:50.07 world record. Her personal best does not even feature in the top 100 of the world all-time list, but Semenya is a woman on a mission.
Semenya’s coach and training partner, Samuel Sepeng, believes she is capable of chopping at least five seconds off her current best which would launch her close to the top 10 on the list. “It doesn’t mean that if she can run a 1:54 over the 800m that she can do well in the 1500m,” Sepeng said.
“But with the mindset of doing both distances this year, I believe she can do well in the 1500m too where running 3:55-3:54 is possible. It depends on the pace she will run on race day and we are also talking about her racing against really good athletes like Sifan Hassan and Laura Muir. So for us, it is about being yourself, running your own race.”
Semenya will go up against seasoned campaigners in World Indoors runner-up Muir (Great Britain) and two-time world 5000m world bronze medalist Hassan (The Netherlands). Ethiopian Gudaf Tsegay has been one of the top performers over the 1500m this year and will go into the race with the fastest season’s best of 3:57.64 in the field.
Sepeng was confident his charge would get the better of a quality field as long as she takes command of the race. “If you take the first Diamond League in Doha she did well going sub-four minutes and if you look at the way she ran the 1500m she did well,” Sepeng said. “It is about Caster believing that she can do well and with the work, we’ve done balancing the 1500m and the 800m she is ready. She can do whatever she wants to do.”
Dibaba’s meet record of 3:57.82 may well take a tumble on Thursday night and if Semenya fires at all cylinders she could edge closer to the Ethiopian’s world mark. While a few women have won double Diamond League Trophies in sprint events, it is a feat yet to be accomplished over the middle distances. Semenya is currently leading the 800m race and will be looking to cement her place for the 1500m final for a possible double.
De Villiers is in Lausanne courtesy of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF)