Semenya set to attempt triple in Ostrava

Caster Semenya (AP)
Caster Semenya (AP)

Cape Town - After speeding to her hat-trick of Diamond League titles this week, Caster Semenya is gunning for one that is missing from her collection of major medals - the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Continental Cup.

The 27-year-old is set to attempt a triple at the two-day Czech Republic competition, which starts on Saturday. She has entered the 400m, 800m and the 4x400m relay races.

She is one of 20 South Africans who have been drafted to the 74-member Team Africa squad.

READ: 20 SA athletes picked for African Continental Cup team

However, before her long trek to represent the continent in Ostrava, Semenya will make a stop at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Berlin, Germany, today to take part in the rarely-run 1 000m.

"The 1 000m is part of my training programme because I think we have done a good job throughout the season. We don't want to strain the body," she said shortly after sealing her Diamond coronation at Stadion Letzigrund in Zurich on Thursday.

"In Ostrava, we'll start with the 400m, which is more of a technical event; you need to focus on your (starting) block and your drive, and keep up the pace and see what you can come up with.

"We focus more on the 400m and nothing else because the 800m is not much of a problem. But I'm up to the challenge," she said.

Semenya said that what mattered was maintaining consistency.

"We are consistent and that’s what the coach (Samuel Sepeng) needs. Now it's about being smart and healthy. We're human and not machines," she said.

Berlin holds bittersweet memories for Semenya as it was in this German city where she came to prominence as an 18-year-old world champion at the 2009 World Championships.

Her feat, however, catapulted her into the international spotlight following a gender row that refuses to go away.

"Berlin is more like my second home because I won my first (senior major title) there," she said.

"The 1 000m is just to have fun and improve on my time. A good 800m runner knows what to do. I don't want to put myself under pressure, but Berlin expects me to do well and I cannot disappoint them."

Semenya, who holds South African records in the 400m, the 800m and the 1 500m, boasts a personal best time of 2:35.43 in the 1 000m - which she set in March.

READ: IAAF, ASA agree CAS must rule on female classification

The reigning world and Olympic champion had a stellar season despite being followed by fresh scrutiny as, on November 1 the IAAF is set to implement new eligibility regulations regarding naturally high testosterone levels in women athletes.

The new regulations are widely believed to be targeting Semenya.

She has refused to comment on this subject, but has lodged an appeal before the Court of Arbitration for Sport to challenge the IAAF.

Semenya will run the 4x400m relay in Ostrava with compatriot Thapelo Phora and Botswana's Baboloki Thebe as her team-mates.

READ: Manyonga pips Samaai to victory at Diamond League meet

Meanwhile, long jumper Ruswahl Samaai, who is also bound for Ostrava, has vowed to dust himself off after Luvo Manyonga snatched the Diamond title out of his grasp when he was on the brink of a historic victory at the final in Zurich on Thursday.

It was sweet revenge for Manyonga after losing the Africa Senior Championships title to his compatriot in Nigeria three weeks ago.

The defeat in Asaba cost Manyonga a place at the Continental Cup because only the top two athletes - but not from the same country - were up for selection.

"Ostrava is a fast track, so I think I might jump my season best or personal best distance there," said Samaai, who boasts an 8.42m season best and a personal best of 8.49m.

"The 8.32m (from the Diamond final) shows that I'm at my peak; that I can still jump good distances even at the end of the season," he said.

"I'm definitely going to Ostrava to win. There's no way I'm going to lose."

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