Caster Semenya says she has improved both her racing tactics and technique since joining new coach Maria Mutola after she won the women’s 400m race at the second Interprovincial meet in Bellville on Saturday.
Semenya teamed up with Mutola, a three-time world 800 metres champion, ahead of the new season after parting ways with long-time coach Michael Seme.
“Maria is really good for me,” Semenya said.
“She has not changed much in my training programme, but is really working more on my race tactics and some technique work.
“I will be looking for a fast time at the SA Senior Championships [in Port Elizabeth in April] and will then run maybe three or four races before the Olympics.”
Running against a headwind of three metres per second, Semenya won the race in 53.62 seconds — nearly a second off her personal best.
A gold and silver medallist over 800m at the last two world championships, Semenya dropped down in distance and powered her way to victory in her first race of the Olympic season.
Semenya said she was pleased with her early build-up to the London Games in July.
“I’m on track. Today was a good race,” she said.
“I am very happy with where I am and I think I could have gone faster if I needed to.”
Meanwhile, former national two-lap champion Mapaseka Makhanya said she was likely to step up in distance this season after winning the 800m and 1 500m events in Bellville.
“I will probably move up to the 1 500m after today,” Makhanya said.
“I love the 800m, but my coach feels the 1 500m is my strength, and after today I think I agree.”
The lightly built Makhanya said she struggled against the strong winds in Bellville.
“It was so difficult to run into that wind in the last 100m,” she said.
“As you come around the corner into the home straight it hits you dead in the face that you almost stop in your tracks.”
Gladwin Mzazi and Stephen Mokoka confirmed they would be gunning for the national 5 000m record in Stellenbosch on March 20.
The duo joined forces with Elroy Gelant as they chased the 13:20.00 Olympic qualifying time in Bellville, but they too were hampered by the wind.
Mzazi won in 13:28.25, a new personal best, with Mokoka finishing in 13:29.09. Gelant was a distant third in 13:45.65.
“Hopefully there will be no wind [in Stellenbosch],” Mokoka said.
“If some of the Kenyans and Ethiopians stay after the African Cross Country Championships [in Cape Town] for the meeting, then we can break the South African record.”
Shadrack Hoff set the national 5000m mark of 13:14.16 in Hengelo in 1995.
Gauteng North won the two-meeting interprovincial series, on a points-based performance system, with Western Province finishing second.