Wednesday 13 December 2017

Athletics: Semenya critics should stay at home - coach

Caster Semenya, the South African teenager, returned to competitive action last month following a series of gender tests. Photo: Getty Images
Caster Semenya, the South African teenager, returned to competitive action last month following a series of gender tests. Photo: Getty Images

Caster Semenya is not being affected by the negative comments about her following her return to action, according to her coach.

The South African teenager, who returned to competitive action last month after 11 months on the sidelines following a series of gender tests, made it three wins from three in Berlin yesterday.

She finished in a time of one minute 59.90 seconds, ahead of Kenya's Cherono Koech and Italian Elisa Cusma Piccione, one of several competitors who continued to question whether Semenya belongs in the sport after he success in the final of the 800 metres at last year's World Championships, also in Berlin.

Briton Jemma Simpson and Diane Cummins of Canada also hit out at the teenager, but Semenya's coach Michael Seme told Press Association Sport that those who complain should stay at home.

"It's up to them to say and do what they want to," he said.

"For us we don't say anything. As long as the organisers of these meetings invite us, there is no problem.

"People are people and they will say things, but good luck to them. We have no problem.

"If these athletes don't want to come and run, it's up to them. Those that want to run must run and likewise those who want to run must do so."

Asked whether there were any concerns from Semenya by what was being said, he responded: "No, no, no. We don't even care about the past now, we're just looking forward to new things and shouldn't be talking about the old ones.

"That is now over and gone."

For Semenya, 19, it was a return to the Berlin Olympic Stadium almost a year to the day she was crowned champion in the two-lap race at the World Championships.

She was subsequently banned by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) after unusually high levels of testosterone were detected in a sample.

After being cleared in July this year, she won her first two races back in low-key meetings in Finland, clocking 2:04.22 and 2:02.41, but improved significantly yesterday by dipping under two minutes.

According to Seme, it bodes well for the future with her first major test due to come at October's Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

He continued: "We are very happy, but I must stress that we are not yet there.

"We are just trying things at the moment and looking on improvements all the time.

"I think for the Commonwealth Games we are targeting at least one minute 57 seconds.

"When I say target, I don't mean for us, but I mean for the competition, it will be a good competition time. So for us that will be good."

That goal would mean Semenya running over a second slower than her personal best of 1:55.45, which she ran on her way to victory in Berlin last year.

Seme stopped short of predicting another victory in India, but said they would at least be looking at claiming a medal.

He added: "We can't really say what will happen there, but you know that if she can run that time then she will be good competition for the others.

"Perhaps if she is level with the rest heading into the last lap, then she can push for one of the medals."

Semenya's next race is in Italy at the Notturna di Milano on September 9.

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