South African Olympic champion Caster Semenya has locked her focus into the 200m, no matter the result of her appeal to overturn last year's Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) decision.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic rocked the sporting globe, Semenya was in a court battle to get the CAS decision that allowed athletics governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), to prescribe hormone-suppressing drugs for any woman with disorder of sex development (DSD) competing in 400m to 1 500m events.
Her last throw of the dice was the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, who had yet to reach a verdict by the time of the global sporting shutdown. In the meantime, Semenya, who outright refused to take the drugs, went to work on the 200m sprint distance.
"That’s decided; we’ll stick to 200m no matter what," Semenya told Athletics South Africa (ASA).
"We don’t care about any other decision-making. We will do what we can control now, which is the 200m. That’s the race we’re going to focus on the entire season and we do not care about any other stuff. Two hundred it is."
Before the lockdown, Semenya ran impressive 200m times at the Gauteng North Championships in March, recording 23.80 and a personal best 23.49 in her first few outings. However, she still had considerable work to reach the qualifying time of 22.80 for next year’s Tokyo Games.
It’s an unprecedented feat. The closest anyone’s ever been successful at short and middle distance events was Cuban Alberto Juantorena, who won an historic 400m and 800m double at the Montreal Games in 1976. Semenya has a mountain to climb just to make it to her third Games.
Semenya said, though, that she harboured love for the 200m race from her younger days before she developed into one of the best 800m runners of all time and a two-time Olympic 800m gold medallist.
"I’m that athlete who does not worry about times; I take it as it comes. We ran 23.80 and then 23.49 and in the nationals we were hoping to go a little bit down," she said.
"I’ve always said that I’m a power athlete; I can do anything from 100m to a marathon. I have power and speed, which has helped me run a better 800m. From a young age I did the 200m and it has always been easy to do sprints - I was born with sprints.
"In Limpopo I didn’t have a coach and I had to make a choice to move to middle distance but the 200m is really not a challenge. The challenge is in the how. You have to master a lot of things: you have to start quickly, you have to 'slip' on the bend and to keep your high knees.
"Now I’m learning how to drive and push through the bend, so that when I finish it off I know I’m at top speed.
"It’s crazy but I’m enjoying it. I wish I ran 200m from age 12. I don’t know where I could have been now."
Top sprinting coach Hennie Kriel, Clarence Munyai’s coach, said Semenya was the kind of special runner that could achieve the impossible.
"It’s obviously difficult but you’re talking about a very special individual," said Kriel.
"She’s shown over a number of years that she can adapt and she’s got drive, which is more important. I’m sure she didn’t take the decision lightly but she’s a highly driven individual and I have no doubt she will be successful in that transition.
"You’ll be in trouble if you ever discard Caster’s ability. She’s just a special individual."
"I call myself 'supernatural', so I can do anything that I want," Semenya said.