Athletics: Semenya to cut down schedule ahead of Olympics

Reuters, Friday 3 Feb 2012

Caster Semenya, South Africa's former 800 metre women's world champion, will scale back her competitive races this year so that she is in perfect shape for the London Olympics, her agent said on Friday

Caster Semenya from South Africa

Semenya, 21, the 2009 800m world champion, lost her crown last year in Daegu, South Korea, when her time of one minute 56.35 seconds was good enough only for second place behind Russia's Mariya Savinova.

Jukka Harkonen, Semenya's agent, said the runner's final schedule for the year still had to be worked out by himself and Semenya's new coach Maria Mutola but it was likely that she would run only one 800m race in South Africa this year, at her national championships in April.

"She may run a 400m race and a 1,500m race but she will probably only run one 800m race in South Africa, at the SA Champs in Port Elizabeth," Harkonen told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"Last year she ran too many races at home and she had a lot of travelling to do. With a new coach there is also new training (techniques) and new ideas. We must also not forget that Caster is still very young," he added.

Semenya joined forces with Mutola, an Olympic and world champion over 800m herself, in October last year and Harkonen said that the team were working well together.

"The coach is satisfied and the athlete is satisfied. If Caster can get even 50 percent of Maria's aptitude then we will see super results. Maria was a very hard-working athlete and to me she was the best-ever 800m runner. To have somebody of her talent mentoring Caster is fantastic," he said.

Semenya's training is geared towards the London Olympics, which start in July, and Harkonen said that as long as his charge stayed fit she had every chance of winning gold in the 800m.

"Anything is possible as long as she stays healthy. Last year Caster had a few small problems in Daegu and we were very lucky she ran such great times. She had a lower back problem that we kept quiet."

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