Semenya shifts focus to Diamond League

Caster Semenya wins the 800m Womens race during the 2016 ASA After Dark Track and Field Night Series at Green Point Athletics Stadium, Cape Town on 22 March 2016 ©Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

Caster Semenya wins the 800m Womens race during the 2016 ASA After Dark Track and Field Night Series at Green Point Athletics Stadium, Cape Town on 22 March 2016 ©Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

Published May 5, 2016


South Africa’s golden girl of athletics, Caster Semenya, will start her international season in earnest this weekend when she lines up at the Doha Diamond League meeting tomorrow.

Semenya goes into the meet with a world leading time of 1:58.45 in the 800m this season, a time run at the South African Track and Field Championships in Stellenbosch last month. It is also her fastest time since she won the Olympic silver medal in 2012.

Semenya will be the favourite tomorrow, but she can expect strong competition from 2013 World Champion Eunice Sum of Kenya, who last year ran a personal best of 1:56.99.

Although Semenya has thrown down the gauntlet with her world leading time, she does not believe there is any pressure to get an early psychological edge ahead of the Rio Olympic Games in August.

“For me it is not about showing what form I am in, it is about showing my love for sport and entertaining people by running better times,” Semenya said at the SA Student Championships in Polokwane.

“Obviously we all want to run good times, it is about having fun, and enjoying what you do.”

After dipping below two minutes once this season, Semenya said she wanted to consistently do that going into the global showpiece in three months’ time. “I obviously ran under two minutes, so I want to be consistent in the next three races where we are looking to run 1:58 and even better while the main thing is to keep the form until the Olympics.”

Plagued by injuries two seasons ago, Semenya started doubting herself and her passion for the sport.

Injury-free, and content with her new life in Potchefstroom under the guidance of renowned middle-distance coach Jean Verster, she has reinvigorated her career.

“When you get injuries, you can never be happy, you are never free in your mind, and you ask yourself will I be able to run again, will I be able to run fast again, and will I be able to win medals again?,” she said.

Running in front of her home crowd in Polokwane over the weekend for the first time since she burst onto the international scene as an 18-year-old in 2009, Semenya was delighted to perform in front of the community that had supported her from the beginning.

“It makes me realise how much I miss home, and how much I love running in front of my crowd, my people, my tribe,” Semenya said. “It is all about my roots, and it makes me happy to see how people respond to the performances I delivered here. It is overwhelming, I will do my best to come back to give back to them and show my appreciation.”

The 25-year-old produced another golden treble at the Student Championships where she raced to victory in the 400m, 800, and 1 500m before rounding off the weekend with a gold in the 4x400m relay with her Pukke team.

Semenya repeated her performance from the SA Track and Field Championships in Stellenbosch where she became the first South African to win all three national titles. She won the 400m and 1 500m races on Friday before adding the 800m and the relay gold medals on Saturday.

Semenya first won the metric mile, clocking 4:31.12, and added the 400m title later in the afternoon with a time of 52.52 to set her up for another golden treble achievement. She cantered home with a winning time of 2:03.59 for her third victory of the championships. “I am doing this for them (supporters). It is no longer about me. This is my home, this is where I was born and bred.

“I can never forget ... this is my home and it can never change.” - The Star

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