Olympic and world champion 800m runner Caster Semenya has said she will continue with the 200m, regardless of any changes that might be made that would allow her to return to middle-distance racing in the coming year, according to a report from South Africa’s Sport24. In 2019, World Athletics decided that women with differences of sexual development (DSD) could not compete in running events between 400m and the mile unless they took hormone-suppressing drugs. Following the decision, Semenya (who refused to take any drugs) tried her hand at 5,000m racing and sprinting, ultimately opting to pursue the 200m for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics—a decision she told Athletics South Africa she’ll stick with “no matter what.”
In 2019, the IAAF (now World Athletics) ruled that women with DSD had to lower their testosterone levels in order to compete in 400m to 1,600m races, with a maximum level of five nanomoles per litre. Semenya appealed the decision with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and lost. She followed that up by winning an appeal with the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, only to have the court reconsider its own ruling and side with World Athletics. Semenya has since appealed the decision with the Swiss court once again, but she has her sights firmly set on the 200m now, and she’s said she doesn’t plan on refocusing ahead of Tokyo 2021.
Early sprinting success
Semenya had run 200m races before 2020, but she’d never seriously pursued the distance. This year, though, she jumped onto the sprinting scene as she worked to make the South African Olympic team. She started her season with 300m national record of 36.78, and in March, she won a 200m race with a PB of 23.49. Due to COVID-19, she hasn’t had another opportunity to race since.
Benefitting from an Olympic postponement
For most athletes vying for the 2020 Olympics, the postponement of the Games was a disappointment. For Semenya, though, the extra year of training plays to her advantage, and it could be just what she needed to qualify for the South African Olympic team.
To qualify for the 200m, Semenya has to run a 22.80. Having just run 23.49 in March, this would have been a lot of time to drop in just a matter of months, but now she has over a year to work on her 200m speed. She is confident in her ability, and said she isn’t too concerned with meeting Olympic standard. She said she “does not worry about times, I take it as it comes.”