Former world 800 metres champion Caster Semenya has cut ties with the coach that recognised her talent as a teenager from a farming settlement in Limpopo and lifted her to the centre stage of global athletics.
Michael Seme, who coached Semenya for the last four years, did not know if the 20-year-old had found a new mentor.
“She is still around here in Pretoria,” Seme said on Friday.
“I have seen her running on the road, but I don't know if she has found a new coach.”
Semenya, virtually unknown at the time, won the 2009 African junior 800m title in a blistering time of 1:56.72 in Bambous, Mauritius.
While the athletics world was still recovering from that shock performance, Semenya hit the headlines again two weeks later when it was leaked to the media that she would undergo a gender verification test.
Days later the 18-year-old went on to clinch gold in the final at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin, Germany, in the midst of a gender controversy that would eventually keep her off the track for 11 months.
She was cleared by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to run against women in July 2010.
While she found some success, following her return to the track, Semenya struggled to reach the same form she showed in 2009 when she had set a 1:55.45 South African record to secure the global title.
Inconsistent, and sometimes bizarre, performances in Europe were spotted with glimpses of brilliance on the rare occasions that she hit the front early and challenged for titles.
In most races, however, she never seemed to reach top gear, and in some instances she was never in contention, settling into last place at the start and holding her position to the finish.
Even when she won – clocking 1:58 at her best – she never showed any real intent of winning races or setting fast times, and at her worst she trailed home nearly 10 seconds behind the fastest women on the European circuit.
Seme, however, remained certain that his charge had the ability to break the world record, despite rumours that she was missing training sessions and causing disruptions within a large group of athletes under his command at the University of Pretoria.
While she failed to set exceptionally fast times this season, she bounced back to clinch the silver medal at the global championships in Daegu, South Korea, in August, with her most impressive performance in two years.
Seme said Semenya had not given him a reason for her sudden departure from his stable, which includes distance running sensation Stephen Mokoka, but he believed her ego had torn her away.
“There were no problems between us, but you know, sometimes when these athletes reach the top, they do what they like,” he said.
“I don't know what she will do now, but maybe she will be lucky and she'll find a good coach.” – Sapa