Caster Semenya easily won her 800m heat at the Rio Olympics on Wednesday‚ and then insisted she was targeting medals‚ not the world record.
With Semenya producing lifetime best performances this year‚ her doubters believe she can easily break the 1min 53.28sec world mark.
Semenya pushed to the front of the heat on the final bend and held off her nearest challengers to cross the line first in 1:59.31 to qualify automatically for Thursday night’s semi-finals‚ Rio time. The race will be broadcast at 2.15am in the early hours of Friday morning in South Africa.
She walked through the mixed zone afterwards without talking to journalists. But in a brief recorded interview organised by Team South Africa’s media liaison officer afterwards‚ Semenya denied she was targeting Jarmila Kratochvilova’s world record. The Olympic record of 1:53.43 from 1980 is held by Nadezhda Olizarenko.
“To be honest I’m not really focused on the records‚ I’m just focused more on doing my championships so I can run my better 800m‚” Semenya said.
“Times don’t matter in championships. The medals [are] gold medal‚ silver or bronze‚ so those are targets. So we are not going to worry about times at the moment.”
Semeya‚ however‚ said the race was harder than it looked.
“It was not easy‚ it was pretty hot outside‚” she said. “I was just trying to hang on‚ trying to feel my body first so I can feel comfortable.
“I tried to get just top two on the last 200m and try to win so I can be safe for the semi-finals‚” she said‚ adding she was feeling healthy and fit.
The final is on Saturday night in Rio de Janeiro (SA time is 2.15am‚ early hours of Sunday morning).
– TMG Sport/Sunday Times