Caster Semenya is expected to race solely the 800m at the Olympics and not attempt to challenge a Rio 400m field that could include Allyson Felix, her coach said in a phone interview Friday.
“At this stage, and it might all change, she’s definitely only going to run the 800m [in Rio],” said Jean Verster, confirming a South African report, two days before Semenya is set to race an 800m at a Diamond League meet in Rabat, Morocco.
Semenya, the 2012 Olympic 800m silver medalist who had struggled since London, turned heads April 16 when she swept 400m, 800m and 1500m races on the same day at the South African Championships.
The 400m and 800m victories were within an hour of each other and were the fastest times in the world this year in those events up to that point.
Semenya’s 50.74 for the 400m that day marked a personal best and would have qualified for the 2012 Olympic 400m final. However, it was well off Allyson Felix‘s winning 49.26 at the 2015 World Championships.
Semenya’s coach said if the Olympic 800m was at the beginning of the Rio track and field schedule rather than the end, the South African would be more open to attempting a 400m-800m double or an 800m-1500m double.
But the Olympic women’s 800m comes after both the 400m and the 1500m, and Semenya’s focus is on winning one gold medal in the 800m. Running the 400m or 1500m could jeopardize her readiness for the 800m.
Verster noted that’s different from 2004 when Brit Kelly Holmes won the 800m and then the 1500m five days later.
“The main focus is still the 800m in the Olympics,” Semenya said after winning an 800m at a Diamond League meet in Doha on May 6. “Obviously, in the future we’ll try to maybe double in the Olympics or Commonwealth Games, maybe also in the African Champs. The main focus now is to go to Olympics, try to win gold medal.”