Caster can break world 800m record

Cape Argus - - FRONT PAGE - OCKERT DE VILLIERS

A GALE-FORCE wind is set to hit track ath­let­ics in 2018 as coach Jean Ver­ster pre­dicts Caster Se­menya could de­mol­ish the women’s 800m record.

Ver­ster be­lieves his charge is al­ready ca­pa­ble of break­ing Czech Jarmila Kra­tochvilova’s 1:53.28 mark from 1983.

“When we started work­ing I told her (Se­menya) she can break the world record and I think we’ve all seen she is ca­pa­ble, but it is baby steps,” Ver­ster said.

“We will be gunning for that in the next sea­son, but the num­ber-one thing is to try and win medals and do the coun­try proud. The world record will come when she is ready.

“To be quite hon­est I think she can prob­a­bly break it al­ready, but we’ve got to find the right race be­cause you don’t want to put all your cards on the ta­ble and then get beaten.”

Ver­ster has rea­son to feel bullish about Se­menya’s fu­ture af­ter the last two sea­sons, which have seen her win the Olympic gold and earn her third world ti­tle in the twolap event.

Her win­ning time at the Lon­don World Cham­pi­onships of 1:55.16 was her sixth na­tional 800m record and the fastest in the world for nine years.

She moved into eighth place on the world all-time per­form­ers’ list be­com­ing the sec­ond fastest African ath­lete be­hind for­mer Kenyan world cham­pion Pamela Je­limo, who holds the con­ti­nen­tal record of 1:54.01.

But it was in her fi­nal race of 2017, where she set a new world 600m best at the World Chal­lenge in Ber­lin in Au­gust post­ing a time of 1:21.77, that has Ver­ster rub­bing his hands with glee.

“We saw a glim­mer of what she can do in that 600m where she ran a world best in Ber­lin, and con­sid­er­ing she ran a 1:21 I do be­lieve a time of 1:52 is pos­si­ble,” Ver­ster said.

“As you’ve seen over the last few years she has bro­ken the South African record nu­mer­ous times and also that 600m world best.

“The times will come, it is just a mat­ter of get­ting in the right race, with the right pace­maker.”

Dip­ping below 1:53 would not only break track and field’s long­est-stand­ing out­door world record, it would oblit­er­ate it com­pletely.

Se­menya be­lieves she has to im­prove her pac­ing in the race to get close to the global mark which Kra­tochvilova ran in Mu­nich, com­plet­ing the first lap in 56.1 sec­onds be­fore clock­ing 57.2sec over the sec­ond 400m.

“The first goal will ob­vi­ously be to break the African record,” Se­menya said.

“It is not an easy tar­get, a 1:54.1 is not an easy time and I need to work on my splits so that I am more bal­anced.”

Se­menya has com­pletely dom­i­nated the two-lap dis­tance over the past two years, where she has gone un­beaten in 20 ma­jor fi­nals in races around the world.

Her supremacy did not go un­chal­lenged, with reg­u­lar neme­sis Francine Niyon­s­aba of Bu­rundi and Amer­i­can mid­dle-dis­tance ace Ajee Wil­son giv­ing Se­menya a good run for her money.

Niyon­s­aba and Wil­son shared a podium with Se­menya at the world cham­pi­onships and also fea­tured in her world-best run.

She dragged Wil­son below the pre­vi­ous 600m world best, with the Amer­i­can clock­ing 1:22.39 for sec­ond place with Niyon­s­aba bag­ging the bronze in 1:23.18.

Ver­ster be­lieves the com­pet­i­tive na­ture of the 800m races over the past two years has been a blow to any world-record at­tempt.

In­stead of creat­ing a rac­ing en­vi­ron­ment for fast times, it has forced Se­menya and her op­po­nents into tac­ti­cal run­ning.

“Some­times when the races are loaded – and the 800m ladies aren’t scared to race each other – but when it is loaded like that there is al­most too much that you can lose,” Ver­ster said.

“I think that has some­times caused us to rather go for a win, whereas where a race is not loaded as much she is ca­pa­ble of break­ing the world record.”

Mean­while, Se­menya said her im­me­di­ate fo­cus would be on the 2018 Com­mon­wealth Games where she will once again line up in both the 800m and 1 500m.

While she has mas­tered the tac­tics of rac­ing the 800m, Se­menya be­lieves she has some work to do in the longer event.

She sur­prised in the fi­nal of the 1 500m race at the world cham­pi­onships, bag­ging the bronze medal in a time of 4:02.90.

“I will again be go­ing for the dou­ble in the 800m and 1 500m, and I need to im­prove on my tac­tics in the 1500m,” Se­menya said.

“The 1 500m is a race that ex­cites me, I look for­ward to rac­ing it.”

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