How world champion Caster Semenya was ‘born as an athlete’ in India
The double Olympic gold medals and three world championship titles have already made Caster Semenya a legend in world athletics, but the South African middle distance runner rates the yellow metal won at the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune higher in her achievements’ list.
Semenya is the two-time reigning Olympic champion in women’s 800m besides winning three world championship titles in 2009 Berlin, 2011 Daegu and 2017 London.
But the lanky runner, who hails from a small village of South Africa’s northern Limpopo province, considers the gold in Pune as most memorable as it gave her the confidence to take on the best in the business.
“When I became an Olympic champion it was a great achievement. When I combine them all, Berlin is my first major world title but the one that I will never forget is when for the first time I won any gold medal and that was in India -- the Commonwealth Youth Games,” Semeya said at the sidelines of the Laureus World Sports Awards here today.
“That’s when I knew that I have something in me being able to defeat the biggest rivals. When I talk about the biggest rivals I am talking about the Kenyans, so being able to win over them was great.
“I rate it at the highest because that’s when I was born if I may say. That’s when I raised the bar for myself. It was my first appearance and being able to win in a big manner was great. That’s the biggest achievement you can ask for specially coming from a rural area and then being on top. That’s basically was my introduction,” she added.
Semenya not just had to fight adversities but also had to ward off a career-threatening controversy following her victory at the world championships. Her sexual orientation came under scrutiny with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) asking her to take a sex verification test to ascertain whether she was female.
But she kept on fighting her case and after a period of nearly a year, she was eventually cleared to return to action in 2010.
Since then, Semenya has performed under a cloud of scrutiny. But as a result of her dominance in the Rio Games, Semenya has been nominated for the Sportswoman of the Year at the Laureus World Sports Awards.
“It (the controversy) makes me hungry to win more. Obviously, I am always eager to improve from my previous races. For me it’s about being consistent. That’s the goal for each and every athlete. For me it’s sweet, nice but it’s not easy to show emotions,” she said talking about her comeback after the controversy.
Semenya (1:55.16) currently holds the eighth fastest timing in women’s 800m even as the fastest record remains unbeaten for long 35 years which belongs to Jarmila Kratochvílová (1:53.28) of Czech Republic.
Asked what it takes to break the long-standing record, Semeya said: “You can never say, you try and be closer to it. Obviously, it’s one of my dreams. It’s one the goals that I still want to achieve. It’s in my list but at the moment I just want to be good at what I do, still win medals. Whenever time comes it comes. If it never comes as long as you have medals it doesn’t matter.
“You just need a decent time. You really don’t need to be super fast. It’s about consistency. It takes a lot of hard work, you need to focus more on training. You need to focus more on being accurate. By accurate I mean consistency, to be able to run in one pace for long time. It is not easy to train for that unless you sacrifice a season,” she signed off.