Athletics

Semenya in hot pursuit of Diamond glory

2018-08-26 06:03
Caster Semenya (Getty Images)

Cape Town - History beckons for Caster Semenya as she chases an unprecedented IAAF Diamond League hat-trick this week.

The 27-year-old will contest the 800m final in Zürich, Switzerland, on Thursday, the event in which she is the defending champion after first claiming the title of the two-lapper in 2016.

She stands to pocket $50 000 (R717 000) and a Diamond Trophy.

Coach Samuel Sepeng believes his charge will attain this goal. He backed up this statement by outlining the athlete's preparations ahead of the Weltklasse Zürich showdown.

Semenya won a 400m race at a low-key event in Poland on Wednesday in a time of 50.06 seconds.

"Doing the 400m has been part of our training. It's for speed work," Sepeng told City Press. "The main focus is next week in Zürich, and we are going there with a positive mind-set after the time in Poland."

In qualifying for the 800m grand final, Semenya accumulated 32 points with four wins in as many races.

The reigning world and Olympic champion finished second behind her perennial rival, Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi, who topped the log by virtue of featuring in all six events.

Despite missing the last 1 500m qualifying event in Birmingham in the UK last weekend, Semenya gained three points at the Lausanne Diamond League meeting in July - plus the full eight points from Doha - to sneak into the final of the event.

Sepeng, however, said they would forfeit their entry in the 1 500m, which will be contested at the AG Memorial Van Damme in Brussels, Belgium, on Friday.

The event carries a $50 000 prize purse for the winner.

"For us, it is not about the money because we still have the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Continental Cup to run (in the Czech Republic next month)," said Sepeng.

Semenya is one of six South African athletes who have earned Diamond League final berths in their respective events.

Apart from her regular foes Niyonsaba and Margaret Wambui of Kenya - both of whom trailed Semenya on the podium at the 2017 World Champs and 2016 Olympics - the South African champion has a strong field to contend with in the 800m final.

Should she win, she will equal Eunice Jepkoech Sum's record of three Diamond titles. The Kenyan managed her hat-trick between 2013 and 2015.

At the Continental Cup in Ostrava in the Czech Republic, which will take place on September 8 and 9, Semenya will represent Team Africa alongside Niyonsaba in the 800m.

READ: 20 SA athletes picked for African Continental Cup team

Semenya has enjoyed almost a flawless season despite renewed frustrations regarding her testosterone levels.

She was thrust into the spotlight again recently after the IAAF announced a new regulation that, from November 1, women athletes with naturally high testosterone will be compelled to medically lower the hormone level in their bodies.

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