Verster believes his charge is already capable of breaking Czech Jarmila Kratochvilova’s 1:53.28 mark from 1983.
“When we started working I told her (Semenya) she can break the world record and I think we’ve all seen she is capable, but it is baby steps,” Verster said.
“We will be gunning for that in the next season, but the number-one thing is to try and win medals and do the country proud. The world record will come when she is ready.
“To be quite honest I think she can probably break it already, but we’ve got to find the right race because you don’t want to put all your cards on the table and then get beaten.”
Verster has reason to feel bullish about Semenya’s future after the last two seasons, which have seen her win the Olympic gold and earn her third world title in the two-lap event.
Her winning time at the London World Championships of 1:55.16 was her sixth national 800m record and the fastest in the world for nine years. She moved into eighth place on the world all-time performers' list becoming the second fastest African athlete behind former Kenyan world champion Pamela Jelimo, who holds the continental record of 1:54.01.
But it was in her final race of 2017, where she set a new world 600m best at the World Challenge in Berlin in August by posting a time of 1:21.77, that has Verster rubbing his hands with glee.
“We saw a glimmer of what she can do in that 600m where she ran a world best in Berlin, and considering she ran a 1:21 I do believe a time of 1:52 is possible,” Verster said.
“As you’ve seen over the last few years she has broken the South African record numerous times and also that 600m world best.
“The times will come, it is just a matter of getting in the right race, with the right pacemaker.”
Thank you South Africa. I Feel proud to be a South African. Your love and support completes me. ❤❤❤
Dipping below 1:53 would not only break track and field’s longest-standing outdoor world record, it would obliterate it completely.
Semenya believes she has to improve her pacing in the race to get close to the global mark which Kratochvilova ran in Munich, completing the first lap in 56.1 seconds before clocking 57.2sec over the second 400m.
“The first goal will obviously be to break the African record,” Semenya said. “It is not an easy target, a 1:54.1 is not an easy time and I need to work on my splits so that I am more balanced.”
Semenya has completely dominated the two-lap distance over the past two years, where she has gone unbeaten in 20 major finals in races around the world.
Her supremacy did not go unchallenged, with regular nemesis Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and American middle-distance ace Ajee Wilson giving Semenya a good run for her money.
Niyonsaba and Wilson shared a podium with Semenya at the world championships and also featured in her world-best run.
She dragged Wilson below the previous 600m world best, with the American clocking 1:22.39 for second place with Niyonsaba bagging the bronze in 1:23.18.
Verster believes the competitive nature of the 800m races over the past two years has been a blow to any world-record attempt. Instead of creating a racing environment for fast times, it has forced Semenya and her opponents into tactical running.
“Sometimes when the races are loaded, and the 800m ladies aren’t scared to race each other, but when it is loaded like that there is almost too much that you can lose,” Verster said.
“I think that has sometimes caused us to rather go for a win, whereas where a race is not loaded as much she is capable of breaking the world record.”
Meanwhile, Semenya said her immediate focus would be on the 2018 Commonwealth Games where she will once again line up in both the 800m and 1500m.
While she has mastered the tactics of racing the 800m, Semenya believes she has some work to do in the longer event.
She surprised in the final of the 1 500m race at the world championships by bagging the bronze medal in a time of 4:02.90.
“I will again be going for the double in the 800m and 1 500m, and I need to improve on my tactics in the 1 500m,” Semenya said. “The 1 500m is a race that excites me, I look forward to racing it.”