As she readies herself for a 2018 that promises to add to her trophy cabinet‚ Caster Semenya looked back on her extraordinary career this week and allowed herself a shy smile.
It has been a journey of glory‚ accusation‚ redemption and peace.
Semenya‚ whose first big competition will be the Laureus World Sports Awards in Monaco at the end of the month‚ believes she has matured exponentially from the “young girl” who shook the world back in 2009.
“I would say that Rio (Olympics in 2016) is one of my highlights‚ and obviously the World Championships in 2009 was the first time I made it to the scene‚” said Semenya.
“But I was young girl‚ you know‚ I had to grow. I had to be mature.
“I had to find a way how to make decisions and how to make right ones and how to pick the wrong ones and take them out. I think winning in 2009 and winning in Rio are the best moments of my life.”
Semenya’s season will officially begin with the South African nationals in March‚ the Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast‚ Australia in April and the African Championships in Nigeria in August.
She will lead South Africa at the inaugural World Cup event in London in July when South Africa will be one of the eight teams invited.
She plans on running both the 800m and 1500m at the Commonwealth Games‚ “so I can be able to win two golds”.
Her confidence is high.
But‚ first‚ there is the matter of the Laureus World Sports Awards on February 27 where she has been nominated for the Sports Women of the year category alongside Serena Williams‚ swimmer Katie Ledecky‚ sprinter Allyson Felix‚ alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin and Gabine Muguruza‚ the reigning Wimbledon champion.
“Those are great sportswomen‚ great in what they do‚” said Semenya.
“I respect their work. I follow their work. They are phenomenal. They are strong. I feel blessed‚ privileged to be amongst a list of great women like that.
“Being nominated with the best – I feel like I am a winner already.
“It’s a dream come true to be nominated.
“You know‚ as an athlete‚ obviously‚ we have goals‚ we have dreams‚ but this is one of the dreams that I dreamed from when I was young‚ watching the world’s top sportsmen and sportswomen being nominated‚ and then say one day‚ if I can be there‚ I will be fulfilled.”
Semenya was nominated for her dominance at the World Championships in London last year‚ when she won gold in the 800m and bronze in the 1500m.
Her final 200 metres in the 800m when she attacked was a thing of perfection.
“I watched (that final 200 metres) over and over.
“How I executed the movements‚ especially in the last 60 metres. It showed the hard work that we put in. I’ll cherish it for the rest of my life.
“For me it was never about winning.
“It was about enjoying what I do‚ and then obviously winning comes along and then getting faster also comes along. It’s just all about being on the track‚ being free‚ being what I love.
“I feel free when I run. I think I was just doing it for the love of sport‚ nothing else. But obviously when you see that you can win‚ and then you start working very hard so you can maintain the winning streaks and all those medals‚ everything‚ the accolades‚ the awards and everything.”
Semenya is looking to the future‚ to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo‚ where she aims to defend her 800m title and win it for the third and‚ perhaps‚ final time.
“I’m an athlete who works more in the short term goals.
“Obviously‚ every month we see how we can improve our fitness‚ how we can improve our biomechanics and how we can improve our breathing and everything. So‚ yes‚ Tokyo‚ I’m looking forward to it.
“I’ll be 29‚ so it will be probably my last Olympics‚ 800 metres – I don’t know.
“But yes‚ if I can still go faster‚ you never know where you can end up.”
by Kevin Mccallum – TimesLIVE