She’s eclipsed her own South African record. Now Caster Semenya can take aim at the 800m world record and a gold medal at the Rio Olympics.
The 25-year-old Semenya, the 2009 world champion, announced herself emphatically as the absolute favourite in Brazil on Friday night when she charged down the home straight at the Monaco Diamond League to win in 1:55.33, beating her previous mark of 1:55.45, which she achieved in Berlin when winning world championship gold.
Caster Semenya is in top form heading into the Rio Olympics. Photo: Abdelhak Senna, EPA. Credit: EPA
Semenya outclassed her biggest rival, Francine Niyonsaba, by nearly a second as the Burundian finished in 1:56.24 – a new national record, but still not enough to get the better of the South African.
One may have thought Semenya would continue her momentum in the next Diamond League meet in London on July 22 and 23, but she has opted for something totally different for her build-up to Rio – hitting the books.
“I was expecting to run under 1:56. I am looking forward for gold in Rio,” Semenya told the Diamond League website after the race. “You have to believe in yourself and that’s what I did today. I dedicate my training and hard work for this PB (personal best), I’m pleased for myself, my coach and my family. I’ll go back home now, to school (at North-West University, where she is studying towards a sports science degree) to catch up with my studies before Rio.”
Her next target in terms of time will be the African record of 1:54.01, held by Kenyan Pamela Jelimo, and the best ever 800m effort of 1:53.28 set by the Czech Republic’s Jarmila Kratochvilova.