In the last two years, South African runner Caster Semenya hasn’t shown the 800m form that made her famous, when she took gold at the 2009 World Championships and silver at the 2011 Worlds and 2012 Olympics, and led to a gender-test controversy.
Semenya, 24, hasn’t registered an 800m time yet this year and ranked No. 139 in the world last year, clocking 2:02.66 for 10th place at a meet in Rome on June 5 (she won the 2009 World title in 1:55.45).
In 2013, she failed to qualify for the World Championships and has also dealt with injury and a coaching change since the London 2012 Games.
Still, Semenya is determined to reach her dreams, to become an Olympic champion and world-record holder, she told the BBC. She was asked if she was scared to win at the Olympics, a claim some made believing she didn’t want the added attention toward the gender-testing controversy.
“How can you be scared?” Semenya said. “You want to be a winner. I’m a dreamer. What I dream of is to be Olympic champion, World champion, world-record holder, so I can’t stop running because of people. If you have a problem with it, you have to come straight to me, tell me. I cannot stop because people saying, ‘She looks like a man,’ this and that. It’s their own problem; not mine.”
Semenya reflected on her breakthrough at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, which sparked the gender-testing controversy.
“It was good memories,” she said of taking gold. “Unfortunately, we had to go this controversial story, which wasn’t really good for me. For publicity, to become a World champion, you never celebrated. … Probably, if it wasn’t for my family, I don’t think I could have survived it.”
Her new coach, Jean Verster, told the BBC the runner could compete in multiple more Olympics.
“I don’t think we must put so much pressure on her, that it’s all or nothing this year,” Verster said. “She’s still relatively young.”