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Widest range: Caster Semenya is the epitome of versatility

Delivering a superb performance once again at the weekend, and raking in yet another national title, Caster Semenya flaunted her versatility to close out her season in style, and her latest effort proves just how good she really is.

Since being sidelined from middle-distance events for the second time in her career due to international gender rules, Semenya has produced some solid results, stretching her impressive range after apparently refusing to take hormone suppressants in order to compete against women over distances between 400m and 1500m.

Initially, after losing the first step in her long-running battle against World Athletics in European courts, Semenya had dabbled in the 200m sprint.

The technical challenges faced with a block start, however, proved a little too much even for her, and while she clocked a half-lap personal best of 23.81, she soon changed her mind, opting instead to tackle the longer 5 000m distance.

Building endurance

At first, this too seemed it might be beyond her, and Semenya looked to be too strong and powerful to compete in an event which favours shorter, lighter athletes who possess as much endurance as they do speed.

But she has done well this season to cement her place as one of the country’s best 5 000m runners, qualifying for the African Championships in Mauritius in June and the World Championships in Eugene in July.

Though she settled for sixth place at the continental championships before being eliminated in the heats at the global championships, and her 5 000m personal best (15:31.50) will hardly have the world’s best shaking, it is a massive step up to have to make from her specialist 800m distance and Semenya’s reach has become extensive.

Between 2017 and 2020 she broke the South African records in four different events on the track – 400m (49.62), 800m (1:54.25), 1 000m (2:30.70) and 1 500m (3:59.92) – while also setting a national best over the unofficial 300m distance (36.78) and a world best over 600m (1:21.77).

And her dominant victory over the weekend in the senior women’s 4km race at the SA Cross Country Championships in Rustenburg proved again just how capable she is in longer events.

The three-time 800m world champion coasted across the grass and the dirt, powering her way over makeshift hills on a tough course, making it look easy against a second-string field as she coasted to the national 4km title.

The 4km event is no longer contested at the World Championships, so she won’t be in the SA team for the global spectacle in Australia in February, but her victory in Rustenburg was another tick on an increasingly impressive career check list as she continues to shine on domestic soil, even if she is no longer able to do so abroad.

ALSO READ: No shame in bowing out: What now for Caster Semenya?

Watching dozens of young athletes running alongside her on her way to a convincing win on Saturday again showed just how popular she is, and just how much the 31-year-old athlete deserves to be recognised as a South African icon.

Her remarkable consistency, versatility and longevity have made her both popular among fans and feared by opponents, regardless of the distance or the surface.

from The Citizen https://www.citizen.co.za/sport/caster-semenya-cross-country-versatility/

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