Caster Semenya stuck up her hand in style on Thursday, delivering a solid performance to win the national women’s 5,000m title on the opening day of the South African Track and Field Championships in Pretoria.
Competing in warm conditions in the high-altitude capital city in only her third race over 12-and-a-half laps, Semenya let her compatriots do much of the work before taking control on the penultimate lap and charging clear to secure victory in a personal best 15:52.28, finishing three seconds clear of training partner Glenrose Xaba.
Semenya needs to run under 15:10.00 before the end of June to qualify in the 5,000m for this year’s Tokyo Olympics, and while she was satisfied with her progress after being suspended from her specialist 800m distance, she said she was not putting pressure on herself to book her place at the Games.
“For me it’s about having fun at the moment,” Semenya said after the race.
“I’m not focussing on Tokyo yet. We’re still building up to that.”
Though she had previously said she would concentrate on the 200m sprint, in order to avoid taking hormone suppressants which were required for athletes with differences of sexual development to compete over distances between 400m and 1,500m, she confirmed she would instead focus on the longer 5,000m event.
“I’m 30 years old now and I need to make decisions that make sense,” she said.
“I must make rational decisions and trust it because it’s about taking calculated risks.
“Continuing sprints would be risky on my muscles but in a distance race there’s plenty of time to work on splits and rectify errors.”