She has the Olympic, World and Commonwealth titles now ... all she needs is the world record
Caster Semenya says a lot of training lies ahead if she is to break the world record in the 800m, the race that won her a gold medal on the final night of the IAAF World Championship in London on Sunday.
The 800m record currently stands at 1:53.28 and her time was 1:55.16.
“We need to clear 1:55 first and it will require a lot of hard training,” Semenya said. “I have Olympic, World and Commonwealth titles now, so maybe it is time to target the world record. It’s the next thing on the list.
“I know it will be difficult but I will have to attempt it soon, maybe.”
Every time that the Olympic champion has lined up for an 800m race since September 2015, when she finished eighth at the ISTAF Meeting in Berlin, she has found a way to win.
And that winning streak continued at the London Stadium, despite the best efforts of Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba, the silver medallist behind Semenya in Rio, and Ajee’ Wilson, the 2012 world Under-20 champion.
The finishing time of 1:55.16 was the fastest in the world this year, a fact that can partly be attributed to the early pace set by Niyonsaba and Wilson and their silver and bronze medals were just rewards for their efforts throughout the race. Over the course of her winning streak, the 26-year-old Semenya hasn’t established a reputation for employing front-running tactics and this race was no different.
Wilson, who set a US record of 1:55.61 in Monaco in July, Niyonsaba and Kenya’s Olympic bronze medallist Margaret Wambui all set off much quicker than the South African and at the break it was Wilson who found herself jostling with Niyonsaba for the lead.
It was Niyonsaba, though, who went through 200m at a blistering pace that not even Semenya had any hope of maintaining and the pack inevitably slowed through 400m with 57.98 showing on the stadium clock. At the bell, Niyonsaba, Wilson and Wambui made up the top three, with Great Britain’s Lynsey Sharp tracking them, Semenya content to sit in fifth.
It was with 250m remaining that the next significant move was made, Wilson kicking hard, but Niyonsaba wasn’t happy to relinquish the lead and responded accordingly. By now, the two were a few metres clear of the rest of the field and Semenya sensed enough danger to close down the gap.
Into the finishing straight, the three chief protagonists were running side by side, Wambui having faded from contention, and with 60m to go Semenya moved clear, able to maintain her pace to the finish. Wilson, clearly feeling the effects of her early front running, began to fall away and had to settle for bronze in 1:56.65, as Niyonsaba held her form to take silver in 1:55.92.
Semenya added another major title to her collection, eight years after winning her first world title, while silver was Niyonsaba’s first medal at an outdoor IAAF World Championships and bronze was Wilson’s first outdoor senior global medal of any colour.
The champion paid tribute to the crowd, who had shown so much support, as well as her coaches.
“I just love you guys,” she said over the stadium speakers. “It feels like home in London there are such fantastic people here. Beautiful I’m lucky to have a great support team who work with me. Full credit to them. Another world title is a fantastic honour for me and I love to do it here in London. The crowd are so welcoming to me and it makes it feel even more special.”
With Semenya in such fine form, Niyonsaba was satisfied with second, for now. “I am very, very happy,” she confirmed. “This medal is for all Burundians. Everybody is watching in Burundi.
“In this final, everybody was looking good So, I got off there as fast as possible to make it a fast race.” – ANA