Semenya: It's a new beginning
Wilhelm de Swardt
Caster Semenya gets a hug from her manager, Jukka Härkönen. (AP)
Pretoria – South African 800m women’s world champion Caster Semenya on Thursday returned to competition with an easy victory recording a relatively slow time of 2m 4.22secs at Lappeenrantha, Finland.
Semenya, though, was happy with her time after a such a long absence.
"To come and run a 2:04 is not easy, especially after what happened," Semenya said. "I was a little bit nervous because it has been a long time not competing."
"It's a new beginning," she added.
Semenya, who started in lane 4, was level with most of her competition before pulling away on the home straight to beat a weak field.
Mari Jarvenpaa of Finland finished second in 2:04.71 and Olha Yekymenko of the Ukraine third in 2:05.
Her winning time was almost 9 seconds slower than the 1:55.42 with which she won the gold medal at the world meeting in Berlin last year.
Local experts said that they would be surprised if she immediately started posting world class times.
Former Springbok athlete Ilze Wicksel, the first South African woman to run the 800m under 2 minutes and also a former winner in Lappeenrantha, emphasised that training was one thing but competing quite another.
“It will be interesting to see what times Caster runs a few weeks from now once she has started training properly,” said Wicksel.
Jean Verster, who is also a former Springbok and currently a middle distance trainer, said that it was important for Semenya’s confidence to win.
“I think we will only really know what Caster is capable of when she starts running against women again that can run the 800m in 2 minutes or less. Taking into account that it was her first race again, she probably did not do too badly,” she said.
“Personally I think Caster’s opponents were carefully picked to ensure that she wins.”
Semenya’s winning time is not among the 130 best in the world.
Mapaseka Makhanya, who ran a time of 2:03.36 in Germany two weeks ago, is currently South Africa’s fastest athlete over the distance.