Semenya back with a bang
Last year this time, South African 800m headliner Caster Semenya was looking to shake off a torrid World Championships campaign, after an eighth-place finish in the semi-final in Beijing.
This year, she has left nothing for anyone else, sweeping the two major prizes up for grabs with a dominant Olympic Games gold-medal victory, as well as the Diamond Race title, which she secured at the last instalment in Zurich a few days ago.
Semenya has spent pretty much the entirety of her professional career under the focus and snickers of the international athletics community over her hyperandrogenism condition, which essentially means that she has higher-than-normal levels of testosterone in her system.
Between April 2011 and July 2015, the IAAF had implemented regulations, which governed its acceptable levels of testosterone in women athletes, with anyone above the established threshold required to lower it in order to remove a perceived unfair advantage.
Still clearly uncomfortable with the topic, Semenya admitted to The Gleaner that coming back from all the mental and physical strains over the past few years have been tough, but she is looking to move ahead and add to her successes.
"The season has been quite well. I have maintained my form right throughout the season, and it has been a fantastic year for me, coming back and bouncing back like this after everything. It's fantastic, and I must give credit to my entire team - my coaches, my training partners and everyone," said Semenya, who will tomorrow compete in the 400m at the Brussels Memorial van Damme Diamond League meet in Belgium.
The 25-year-old, who finished second at the 2012 Olympic Games in London after winning gold at the World Championships in 2009, says she is focused on adding to her medal tally and is already conditioning her mind to another podium-topping performance at the London 2017 World Championships.
THE RIGHT RACES
"The season has been great, and I think going into next year, we have to be smart and keep doing what we have done - pick the right races so we can peak well and arrive at the major events in the best shape," Semenya said. "Next year is the World Championships, that is obviously the next target and one that I am looking forward to.
"For me, it's all about collecting medals as much as I can, big championship medals. I know that I am good in championships; I'm not always at my best at the individual races, but at the championships, I am always determined to bring out the best."
Semenya, who highlighted that she intentionally tried different approaches this year - from leading from the front to running on late in the race - will have to decide how to go into tomorrow's still somewhat unfamiliar quarter-mile test, which will see Jamaican Stephenie-Ann McPherson and American Natasha Hastings going head to head for the Diamond prize.
The Jamaican leads the standings on 31 points and needs to finish in front of Hastings, who sits three points behind her, with Olympics bronze-medal winner Shericka Jackson (Jamaica) adding even more pedigree to the event in the absence of Olympic gold and silver medallists Shaunae Miller and Allyson Felix.
Semenya has run her fair share of quarter-mile events, but is hardly as fearsome in this event, with a personal best of 50.74, which not surprisingly was posted earlier this season. It's the only time that she has gone sub-51 seconds in her career, and she will likely need to improve on that if she is to bother the top brass here.