Double Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya is turning her attentions to the shorter 200m sprint event in a last-ditch attempt to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
The 29-year-old South African is unable to defend the 800m title she won for a second time at the 2016 Rio Olympics because she is refusing to comply with new World Athletics regulations that require her to take testosterone-limiting medication.
Those rules apply to all events between the 400m and the 1500m, with Semenya switching to the 200m after failing to impress in longer distance events.
“My dream has always been, and will continue to be, to compete at the highest level of sport,” Semenya announced in a statement on her Instagram account.
“So in order pursue my goals and dreams, I have decided to change events and compete in the 200m.
“This decision has not been an easy one, but I look forward to the challenge, and will work hard, doing all I can to qualify for Tokyo and compete to the best of my ability for South Africa.”
Semenya’s new career over 200m gained momentum with a convincing victory in a provincial championships in South Africa Friday night, clocking 23.49 seconds.
The time is over half a second slower than the 22.80 seconds that she needs to record to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics that are scheduled to take place from July 24-August 9 in the Japanese capital.
Despite the big improvement still needed, Semenya was in confident mood after the race.
“I call myself supernatural,” she told reporters.
Semenya is likely to have several chances to lower her time before the June 29 cut off for qualification for Tokyo and is undaunted at the prospect.
“You know me – I always challenge myself. This (switching from 800m to 200m) was not an easy decision to make.
“I am used to running two laps and then you come and run half a lap. You have to adjust, which is not easy, but anything is possible,” she added.
Semenya’s career has been clouded in controversy since she burst on to the scene at the age of 19 to win the 800m title at the world championships in Berlin in 2009.
Two more world titles at the two-lap distance have followed in 2011 and 2017 as well as claiming Olympic golds in London 2012 and Rio four years later.
But claims persisted that Semenya has an unfair advantage due to her being hyperandrogenous, meaning she has elevated levels of testosterone.
The new rules adopted by World Athletics, which Semenya unsuccessfully challenged in Swiss courts, left her little choice but to try other distances than her specialist 800m.
Away from track and field, Semenya has flirted with football, joining a Johannesburg-based club last year, but has been unable to play because she missed the registration deadline.
If she does succeed in qualifying for the 200m at the Olympics, Semenya would likely come up against runners such as Britain’s reigning world champion over the distance, Dina Asher-Smith and Jamaican sprint star Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
The women’s world record for the 200m distance is 21.34 seconds by Florence Griffith-Joyner, set at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.