"The goal is to come back and show up for my people" - Semenya ahead of Potch ASA Grand Prix tonight
After being banned by World Athletics from competing in distances from 400m to 1500m, double Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya is forging a new path as a distance runner. The 31-year old has had to answer a barrage of unending questions about her gender since first bursting onto the scene when she won the World title in Berlin way back in 2009. With the legal battles and the failure to qualify for last year's postponed Olympic Games seemingly behind her, Mokgadi is back on the track and winning again.
"We ran according to the plan. Unfortunately, the wind was eating us a lot especially on the home straight - the bends were a little bit difficult to run. But obviously, pushing hard like that got us a better result," she told journalists moments after winning the 3000m in 8:54 during the second of five ASA Grand Prix Series Meets in Cape Town a fortnight ago.
Semenya battled the wind on that occasion in a brave solo effort that saw her take the lead from training partner Glenrose Xaba after halfway to finish what was a new personal best clocking. And even though The Cobra will be running at 1340m above sea level in Potchefstroom this time around, the shorter 2000m should be more suited to the 2018 Commonwealth 1500m champion's abilities as she continues her quest to qualify for the 5000m event at the World Championships which take place in Oregon in the United States in July.
"If it comes, it comes. But it is possible," she said optimistically after that commanding run in The Mother City. "If you are able to run sub 9 on a 3 kay, it shows that you can go almost 15:00 on a 5000m. But for me, it's not always the goal. The goal is to come back and show up for my people, to show that I still have love for athletics. But obviously it would be great form for me to be able to do the World Champs. But at the moment the goal is to run the African Champs," she revealed.
That love for athletics, which was reciprocated by an appreciative crowd at a blustery Greenpoint Stadium is expected to be taken up a notch when the Limpopo-born athlete competes closer to home in the neighbouring North West province tonight. Having run in the colours of the Northwest University when she was a student there, Semenya and African 100m record holder Akani Simbine will be the headline acts that receive the biggest cheer from what will now be an unmasked crowd ready to enjoy athletics again at a popular track and field venue.
"It's always great when you see your people, when you come on the track. They show appreciation and you appreciate them back by showing them great performances. I'm always confident about what I am doing. My results, they make me happy because it's what I've worked for. At the end of the day, I can only do what I can do," she concluded.