“I am Caster Semenya. I’ve been here for 10 years. I’m doing me. I am continuing doing myself.
CAPE TOWN – Despite still being only 29-years-old Caster Semenya has already encountered challenges that will last her a lifetime.
They have been of the most intrusive nature too, such as her sexuality being questioned throughout her glittering career. But through sheer determination and immense will power, Semenya has more often than not overcome these obstacles.
It is for this reason that South Africa’s two-times Olympic 800m gold medalist believes she can be successful in her new chosen distance – the 200m.
Semenya’s path has virtually been forced after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) allowed the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) to prescribe hormone-suppressing drugs for any woman with disorder of sex development (DSD) competing in the 400m to 1500m events.
Semenya has vowed never to take the drugs and prior to the Covid-19 global lockdown, was waiting in hope that a ruling from the Swiss Federal Supreme Court would overturn the decision. However, regardless of the outcome, Semenya has already switched her focus.
“We not worried. We don’t stress. We not worried about other people’s business. I am Caster Semenya. I’ve been here for 10 years. I’m doing me. I am continuing doing myself. We work hard. Times will come. Even if we don’t qualify for Olympics … it does not matter. We are there. We are on the track. That’s the goal. They will see a lot of me,” Semenya told Athletics South Africa (ASA).
“It’s decided. We’ll stick to 200m no matter what. We don’t care about any other decision-making. We will do what we can control now, which is the 200m. That’s the race we’re going to focus on the entire season and we do not care about any other stuff.”
Although Semenya has not yet come close to the Olympic 200m qualifying time of 22.80 seconds, there were signs at the Gauteng North Championships prior to the Covid-19 enforced break in March that she was building towards it with a personal best of 23.49.
With this year’s scheduled Tokyo Olympic Games also now postponed to July 2021 due to COVID-19, it will allow Semenya more time to reacquaint herself with the finer techniques of the shorter sprints she last ran competitively many years ago.
“From a young age I did the 200m and it has always been easy to do sprints – I was born with sprints,” Semenya said. “I’ve always said that I’m a power athlete; I can do anything from 100m to a marathon. I have power and speed, which has helped me run a better 800m.
“In Limpopo I didn’t have a coach and I had to make a choice to move to middle distance but the 200m is really not a challenge. The challenge is in ‘the how’. You have to master a lot of things: you have to start quickly, you have to ‘slip’ on the bend and to keep your high knees. Now I’m learning how to drive and push through the bend, so that when I finish it off I know I’m at top speed.”