Caster Semenya is one of the finest athletes in our sport. This interview was done by Stuart Weir and is part of his Ten Questions series that we will be posting.
Ten questions to Caster Semanya
RunBlogRun: When did you realise that you had a talent for running?
Caster: I think you notice it from an early age. From age four, I played soccer and had been running around. But when you start school, that is when you discover your talent and where you belong. So at the age of six I realized, for the first time that I could do well in running.
RunBlogRun: Is it true that you started as a sprinter?
Caster: When I was young, I was a sprinter. The first time I walked onto a track, I was a 100 and 200 meter runner but because of the lack of facilities and coaching available, I decided to step off sprinting to do middle distance. I thought even without a coach I could still train for distance. So I think my speed just came naturally from when I was young and did a lot of sprinting.
RunBlogRun: You are unusual in running 400, 800 and 1500s, do you find that difficult?
Caster: I think it’s all about knowing how your body responds through training and knowing how to manage your body. So it’s about feeling – I feel the rhythm and I execute. It is very hard to be good in the middle distance if you do not balance speed and endurance. That is what we are trying to do. The training is not easy because it requires a lot of things, a lot of load. But at the end of the day, if you can put that together you become great at what you do.
RunBlogRun: You’ve won two Olympic gold medals. What are your memories of London and Rio?
Caster: I will talk more about Rio, because in London I finished in second place and it wasn’t the best race of my life, as I couldn’t produce what others expected me to produce. But London is part of my life, one of my failures and I learn from it. 2016 was the best year of my life. The main focus was to win gold in the Olympics. At that time we were still running tactical races. We always attacked from the back. So I knew if I stayed and waited for the right moment I would win the race, so it was no surprise.
RunBlogRun: Can you explain why you are able to be so dominant in your event?
Caster: As an athlete I think it’s about the relationship you have with your coach. We believe a lot in rhythm. Our training has been solid and we have been consistent in everything we do. I think that is why I am running better now. In the last two years, it has been about rectifying mistakes we have made in the past eight years. As an athlete you learn. We’re found a way to master the skill and now it’s just about executing and being better.
RunBlogRun: In Monaco 2017 you won an amazing race with the top seven runners under 1:58.50. What do you remember about that race?
Caster: Any time I run in Monaco or on a fast track, my thoughts are on improving my time. It is all about me wanting to run better. When I approach my races, I don’t think a lot. It is all about running the right pace and the right rhythm and the time will come. But I always want to run well when the track is good. For me running is about feeling the body. It was a difficult race because they were digging hard but I had the advantage because I was already in front and had a chance to win the race but it was fantastic. Of course it is possible to lose but it is hard for someone to lose in the last 100 meters if they have a little bit of speed, especially in their specialty event. So it is not about me losing but about me focusing on my racing to the finish.
RunBlogRun: You won bronze in London 2017 at 1500m. Might you ever concentrate on the 1500?
Caster: 1500m is a race I love and I will always concentrate on it, but I try by all means to balance speed. When it comes to 1500 it all depends on how we start the season. If we are quick already then it will be the 800 but if we are a little bit delayed it might be more 1500 over 800, so we make wise decisions based on how fast we are moving in racing.
RunBlogRun: What ambitions have you left in the sport?
Caster: I still have a long way to go. I still want to run two more Olympics. If you calculate two Olympics, that takes you to about six world championships and 10 years I think. I still want to run until I am perhaps 39. Those are the goals – two Olympics and perhaps five more world champs.
RunBlogRun: You always seem to be very gracious in how you deal with the controversies around you, is that hard?
Caster: I think over a period of 10 years, I became a better person from the experience that I have had as an athlete, from being a teenager onto now. It has been a great journey. I have been raised to respect people. It doesn’t matter who respects me and who doesn’t. At the end of the day, I have been taught to be a good person, even to those who hate. I am a Christian. I believe in the Bible. What I read in the Bible made me who I am today. I will not let humans’ reaction change me. When I read the Bible I feel peace and know what is right and wrong.
RunBlogRun: What is Caster the person like?
Caster: I am quite an easy person. I like my own space. I watch sports. When I’m not running I will be playing with a ball or I will be indoor watching movies or catching up with all the sports. I like football, tennis, basketball, golf, formula one, motor sport. I’m an easy person to talk to. I love people. In my spare time I just chill. I have my foundation and my own club that I’m running. My main focus now it is to develop young up and coming boys and girls.