Monaco: She has two Olympic golds to her credit, claimed at the London Olympics in 2012 and at Rio 2016. Not to mention the three titles she's won at World Chamionships in 2009, 2011 and 2017. Yet, for Caster Semenya, the gold medal she won at Pune's Commonwealth Youth Games ten years ago will forever hold a bigger spot in her heart.
"When I became an Olympic champion (in 2012), that was my greatest achievement. When I combine them all, Berlin (2009 World Championships) is my first major world title, so that’s also one of my greatest achievements.
"But the one that I will never forget – the first time I won any gold medal – was the medal I won in India – at the Commonwealth Youth Games. That’s when I knew that I have something in me since I was able to defeat the biggest competitors. When I talk about the biggest competitors, I am talking about the Kenyans. So being able to win over them made it special.
“I rate it as the highest because that’s when I was born if I may say so. That’s when I raised the bar for myself. My first appearance and being able to win in a big manner (made it special). That’s the biggest achievement you can ask for, especially coming from a rural area and then being on top. That was basically my introduction to the world,” Semenya tells a group of Indian journalists in Monaco before the Laureus World Sports Awards.
Semenya was nominated for the Sportswoman of the Year Award, but lost out to American tennis ace Serena Williams.
In her storied career so far, if there's a medal missing, it's a Commonwealth Games medal. Eight years ago, she missed out on the event happening in New Delhi as controversy raged over her sex – a topic which has unjustly dominated conversation, each time she is mentioned. Four years later, she could not make it to Glasgow due to an injury. This time around, though, she's determined to add the CWG medal to her trophy cabinet when the event takes place at Australia's Gold Coast.
"The year I did not qualify for the CWG because I was injured was my worst moment as an athlete. Being an athlete, you don't want to miss any finals. As an athlete, you always want to improve, that's why you go back and train," she says.
There's another achievement missing from Semenya's already impressive 800m portfolio: the world record. Jarmila Kratochvilova's record-setting timing of 1:53.28 has stood since 1983, with Semenya's best timing of 1:55.16 placing her in 8th spot in the all-time fastest standings.
Ask her is she feels she can beat the world record, and she says, "You can never say, you try and be closer to it. Obviously, it’s one of my dreams. It’s one of the goals I still want to achieve. It’s on my list. But at the moment, I just want to be good at I do and keep winning medals. Whenever time comes (for me to set the world record) it comes. If it never comes, as long as I have medals it doesn’t matter.
"You just need a decent time (to beat the world record). You really don’t need to be super fast. It’s about consistency. It takes a lot of hardwork, you need to focus more on training, you need to focus more on being accurate. By accurate, I mean consistency, to be able to run at the same pace for a long time. It is highly impossible sometimes, it is not easy to train for that unless you sacrifice a season for that,” says Semenya.
Given her battle with the authorities over the issue of hyperandrogenism, it's understandable that she does not want to talk about it anymore. It's something which has cast a shadow over her career for nearly a decade. But she admits that given her battle, victory feels sweeter now, even though she sometimes struggles to show her happiness.
"It makes me hungry to win more. Obviously, when I cross the line I wanna improve from my previous races. So for me it’s about being consistency. You want to keep on being better. That’s the goal for each and every athlete. For me it’s sweet and nice but it’s not easy for me to show my emotions.”
The author is in Monaco at the invitation of Laureus
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Updated Date: Mar 02, 2018 20:56:10 IST