Semenya raring to go

2012-07-28 00:00

“I’M not going to worry about times; it’s a matter of running a good championship — sometimes it doesn’t matter if you run good times or not, what matters is how you handle the championship,” said world 800 metres silver medallist Caster Semenya.

Yesterday Semenya became the country’s sixth flag bearer since the return to Olympic competition in Barcelona in 1992.

“I’m honoured to have this opportunity. It’s now my responsibility to lead the team to glory … achieve those 12 medals … and hopefully double that … I’m very happy, I cant wait to be out there.”

Marathon runner Jan Tau was the first to carry the flag ahead of an Olympic team, and in 2000 the current athletics manager, Hezekial Sepeng, had the honour as the 800 metres silver medallist from Atlanta.

Mbulaeni Mauldzi headed the team into Athens, going on to win the silver in the 800 metres, all of which augurs well for Semenya come day 12 of the Games.

After the 2011 World Championship in Daegu, Semenya changed coaches to fall under the tutorship of multiple gold medallist Maria Mutola. The impact has been profound.

“I started [my training] from the beginning, from A to Z, so it hasn’t been easy to adapt — but we are ready. Now I just have to put the spikes on and do my best. I’m excited: it’s my first Olympics. I’ve a gold and silver from two World Championships so I’m very positive,” said the 21-year-old, whose infectious confidence grabs attention.

“I’m not scared [about competitors]. I focus more on my race than any [particular] body. Time doesn’t matter; what matters is here [pointing to her head] and if I’m strong mentally then come on … [nothing stops you].”

“If you want to be the best you have to beat everybody — to be number one you have to believe yourself to be the best,” continued Semenya, sounding remarkably like Usain Bolt the previous night, and with a conviction that left the room in no doubt that they were sharing space with a talent determined to make her mark in London 2012 history.

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