April 14, 2018 / 3:47 AM / 5 months ago

Semenya believes she could go the distance after Gold Coast double

GOLD COAST, Australia (Reuters) - Caster Semenya leaves the Commonwealth Games convinced she can replicate the middle distance double she achieved on the Gold Coast at next year’s world championships and the Tokyo Olympics, and maybe even extend her repertoire further beyond that.

Athletics - Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games - Women's 800m - Final - Carrara Stadium - Gold Coast, Australia - April 13, 2018. Caster Semenya of South Africa celebrates victory. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Brushing aside the ever-present questions about her right to compete as a woman, the twice Olympic 800 metres champion put in a commanding performance in the 800 metres on Friday night to add another gold to the one she had already won in the 1,500m.

Both were achieved in Games record times and even if her one minute 56.68 in the two-lap race was still a good way short of Jarmila Kratochvilova’s 1983 world mark of 1:53.28, that is a target Semenya believes is reachable later this year.

“World record, we can’t discuss that, it’s still early, it’s still April,” she told reporters at the Carrara Stadium.

“Probably, maybe it will be three months, four months.”

Semenya won a bronze in the 1,500 along with a third 800 title at last year’s world championships in London and looking ahead beyond the Tokyo Olympics, said she thought she could cope with even greater distances.

“We need to run four championships in doubles and then decide if we still have speed for the 800,” added the 27-year-old.

Athletics - Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games - Women's 800m - Medal Ceremony - Carrara Stadium - Gold Coast, Australia - April 13, 2018. Gold medalist Caster Semenya of South Africa on the podium. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

“If we do, we continue with 800. If not, we go further. We have 5k and 10k, I believe I can still do better in future.

“I feel I can fit into distance running. For me, this is more than a game.”

Hanging like the sword of Damocles over her, however, is the lengthy battle the International Association of Athletics Federations has been fighting to impose limits on the amount of naturally occurring functional testosterone in female athletes.

Semenya’s hyperandrogenism means her body produces raised levels of testosterone and, if the IAAF can get their ruling past the Court of Arbitration for sport this year, she will have to take measures to control the hormone or quit the sport.

The South African faces constant complaints from her rivals about her having an unfair advantage on the track but has learned over the years how to deal with it.

“I’ve been in this industry for almost a decade now,” she said. “As a sports science graduate, you tend to understand the psychology of how to handle emotions, how to handle negativity and turn it into positivity.

“I’ve had to learn how to manage it myself, how to face the world. As I person I want to be better. It’s not about what other people think of me, it’s about how I think of myself.

“My main goal here is to show people I’m here to inspire the world, nothing else.”

(This version of the story has been refiled to change “extending” to “extend” in first paragraph)

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Sudipto Ganguly

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