Now that Caster Semenya has qualified for the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships, the former global champion is looking forward to rekindling her rivalry with the Kenyans, although the top Russian runners will be ominously absent.
Russian runners have dominated the 800m international competition scene, but are dealing with fresh allegations of doping in the lead-up to the World Championships that start in Beijing, China, in a fortnight. Two of their biggest stars will not be on the track.
Said Semenya: “I am just happy to have qualified because the expectations were high that I would return to the world champs.” She slipped into the China-bound Team SA in a time of 2:00.72 in Linz, Austria, last Saturday.
The 24-year-old’s victory marked her season-best time, as she also met the required 2:01.00 standard entry for Beijing.
Semenya failed to qualify for the previous edition in Moscow two years ago, and is yet to break the two-minute barrier since her 1:58.92 at an IAAF World Challenge meeting in Italy in 2013.
“I am in good shape at the moment, but I’m not going to put pressure on myself.
“I am just going to run a good championship race,” said the 2009 world champion.
Semenya said she was eager for fierce competition, as she has been participating in low-key international meetings during her resurgence.
“I know the rivals [Russian and Kenyan runners] have had good competitions with impressive times [leading to the Beijing showpiece].
“The championships race is going to be fast.”
Kenya has named defending world champion Eunice Jepkoech Sum (27) and 2011 bronze medallist Janeth Jepkosgei (31) in their team.
Sum recently lowered her personal-best time to 1:56.99 at the Paris Diamond League last month.
Jepkosgei was Semenya’s runner-up at the 2009 championships in Berlin.
However, the group’s Russian rivals, Mariya Savinova and Ekaterina Poistogova, were among the medal-winning athletes from the eastern European country who have been accused of doping. They were not named for the Russian team after being excluded from Russia’s qualifying event.
Savinova (29) beat Semenya to the gold medal at both the 2011 World Championships and 2012 Olympics.
Poistogova (24) was a bronze medallist at the London Games.
“I can’t comment on something that doesn’t concern me. I am focusing on my own race,” said Semenya about the doping scandal.
Russian athletics authorities said in a statement this week that they were looking into the new doping allegations after leaked blood-test data apparently indicated widespread cheating by the country’s athletes