Showdown looms between Caster and Russian

2013-01-20 10:00

Semenya vs Savinova 800m track battle to continue at world champs.

Caster Semenya’s rivalry with Russia’s elite 800m runners has developed into something of a fierce duel.

With the 14th edition of the IAAF World Championships just six months away, another showdown is on the horizon between Semenya and her perennial eastern Europe competitors – and right in their back yard.

Semenya and her coach Maria Mutola are now only into their second week since resuming training after the festive season, planning their path to the biennial global track and field meeting that runs in Moscow from August 10 to 18.

For the past three years, most of the international 800m contests turned into a Semenya versus Mariya Savinova battle.

The two first came face to face at the 2009 World Champs in Berlin, Germany, where Semenya clinched gold in her senior track debut. The then 19-year-old won with what was a world-leading time of 1:55.45, which was unfortunately followed by the gender verification debacle that lasted almost a year.

Mutola insisted that her charge is more talented than her Russian opponents.

“We are aware of the Russians’ threat but I believe Caster is better than them because she is strong in her finishing,” said the three-time 800m world champion.

The two runners’ rivalry spans nearly 10 meetings, with 27-year-old Savinova proving the more dominant force.

The Russian dethroned the South African champion as world number one in 2011 and also beat her to gold at last year’s Olympic Games in London.

“I know Mariya very well but I don’t like to concentrate on an individual,” said Semenya, adding that: “They (the Russians) like a fast race”.

Mutola said she was emphasising speed work in her charge’s training routine. “She is strong in the last 100m but we are going to work more on her speed work. I would like to see her improving her time – she is capable of doing 1:55.”

The Mozambican track legend said Semenya will do more 400m races to enhance her speed.

“Caster is growing up and she has gained experience now. She’s coming along alright,” said Mutola, still ruing their gold medal miss at the Olympics.

“I still can’t explain how she came second in that race. But still, nobody can do what she did on that day and still come away with a medal.”

Semenya made a strong comeback on the home straight and clinched a silver medal in a race where she was sandwiched between winner Savinova and third-placed Ekaterina Poistogova. Savinova controlled the race from start to finish.

The entry standard time for this year’s World Championships is 2:00.00 and a pre-Moscow meeting cannot be ruled out between Semenya and Savinova in the Diamond League series.

Caster Semenya’s rivalry with Russians by

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