Johannesburg: Double Olympics 800-metre champion Caster Semenya called herself “supernatural” this weekend after saying she hoped to compete in the 200m at the 2020 Tokyo Games.
The 29-year-old South African cannot defend her 800m title as she refuses to abide by World Athletics testosterone-reducing regulations covering races between 400m and the mile.
“I call myself supernatural,” said the three-time world 800m champion after clocking 23.49 seconds to win a provincial championships 200m final in Pretoria.
The time she set here leaves her 0.69 seconds outside the time needed to qualify for the July 24-August 9 Tokyo Olympics.
Semenya will have at least four chances during April to lower her time to at least 22.80 and secure a place in the South African Olympics team.
She can compete in three Athletics South Africa Grand Prix meetings and at the national championships.
The champion was thrilled at her latest 200m time, having slashed 0.77 sec off her 2019 personal best in two races spanning seven days.
“We are chopping the times and I call myself supernatural. I can do anything I want,” she said.
“You now me — I always challenge myself. This (switching from 800m to 200m) was not an easy decision to make.
‘Anything is possible’
“I am used to running two laps and then you come and run half a lap. You have to adjust, which is not easy, but anything is possible.
“With what I have already done — I have run three 200m races — it is doable,” said Semenya as she eyes making the Tokyo qualifying time before the June 29 deadline.
The athlete born in northern region capital Polokwane holds the South African records at 300, 400, 600, 800, 1000 and 1500m.
Semenya took the athletics world by storm 11 years ago when becoming the world 800m champion in Berlin at the age of 19.
But as her list of successes grew, rival female athletes began to question how the South African could leave them trailing in her wake.
Semenya is among a minority of female athletes who have an unusually high level of testosterone, which gives added strength.
The media-shy South African has faced constant legal battles during her career, leading to temporary bans from competing in her favourite middle-distance event.
The latest testosterone regulations left her with a choice of competing in the 200m or a distance longer than the mile.
She has not clocked impressive times over longer distances, prompting her to seek the 200m route to Tokyo.
Away from the athletics track, Semenya joined a Johannesburg-based football club last year but was unable to play immediately because she missed the registration deadline.