Port Elizabeth - Caster Semenya says it is only a matter of time before she qualifies for the London Olympic Games, after she missed the mark at the SA Senior Championships in Port Elizabeth over the weekend.
She missed the qualifying time of one minute, 59.90 seconds (1:59.90) in the women’s two-lap race, though she retained her national title in a time of 2:02.68.
“It was ok for me. I retained my title but the race was a bit disappointing because we were hoping for a qualifier but unfortunately I didn’t make it, but the time will come. I just need to be patient,” said Semenya.
“The target was below two minutes, sometimes the body if it cannot go, you cannot force it, you just have to maintain the pace. Hopefully 2:02 is not that bad. Maybe next week we can break those three seconds down. It is possible.”
Semenya said she still had two South African races left which she would target for qualification.
“I think I am left with two (South African races) but hopefully I will do it. Maybe next week I’ll try to push harder so that I can qualify,” she said.
“I don’t feel pressure, I just have to do my thing, I train hard, I know what I am capable of so I don’t need to stress. I know I can do it, I just need to be patient.”
It was only her second race under new coach and three-time world 800m champion Maria Mutola, who has been cracking the whip since Semenya parted ways with Michael Seme.
Mutola set her charge the goal of running a sub-two minute race on South African soil, a feat that was last achieved in 1991 when Zelda Pretorius ran a time of 1:58.85.
“It is good (to have Maria Mutola as coach). We are sharing experience. She won the world champs three times and the Olympics once. I think it is good, it is really working,” Semenya said.
“She is really strict. If she wants times, she wants times - no games.”
Semenya reached the 1:59.90 qualifying time for the first time last year at the IAAF World Championships in South Korea when she relinquished her title to Mariya Savinova of Russia.
She needs to dip below the qualifying mark one more time before the June 30 deadline, to book a place for the Games.
The 21-year-old will face a tough field at the Games with reigning Olympic champion Pamela Jelimo of Kenya also making a strong comeback in the two-lap race.
Semenya, however, relishes the prospect of racing against a strong field at the global showpiece later this year.
“If those fast ladies are back we will make a great team so we can go for times and it will be good for us,” she said.
“World champs and Olympics are the same, Olympics are a big step, everybody wants to win it and so do I."
“Now I just need to concentrate on my training and I don’t have to worry how stadiums look."
Semenya initially said she hoped to compete in both the 800m and 1500m races at the Olympics, but a congested schedule would not make it possible.
She, however, hoped to take a stab at the 4 x 400m relay if South Africa qualified for the event.
“These days the programme is very tight. You know you can’t run both the 800 and 1500. I just need to focus on 800,” said Semenya.
“I can take part (in the 4 x 400m) because it will be long enough rest after my event so hopefully we will do it.”