Prudence Sekgodiso: ‘No-one can beat me – but I am not the next Caster Semenya’

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South Africa’s rising athletics star Prudence Sekgodiso expects to emulate compatriot Caster Semenya by capturing her first international track title in Mauritius this weekend.

The 20-year-old will compete for the 800m title at the African Athletics Championships on the island where Semenya first shot to prominence.

Semenya won world junior gold over the same distance back in 2009 before going on to dominate the discipline for the next decade.

Sekgodiso excelled in her debut Diamond League race in Morocco last Sunday, taking second place in challenging conditions.

“As it was my first race at that level, it is probably for the best that I did not win,” Sekgodiso told BBC Sport Africa.

“Looking at what she did, it is great to be compared to Caster, but I don’t like the comparison to be honest.

“It brings too much pressure. I am trying to be the first Prudence, not the next Caster.”

Semenya is a two-time Olympic champion and three-time world champion over 800m.

However, the 31-year-old has been barred from competing in her favourite event since 2018 because of World Athletics’ DSD rules over testosterone levels in female athletes.

In Semenya’s absence, Sekgodiso has already taken one of her hero’s two-lap records, becoming South Africa’s youngest national champion in 2019 aged just 17.

‘No-one can beat me’

A positive Covid-19 test denied Sekgodiso the prospect of winning a world junior title in Kenya last year.

Running coach Samuel Sepeng, who previously mentored Semenya, persuaded the former footballer not to walk away from athletics after that setback.

Sepeng has tasked his latest protege with making the final of next month’s World Championships in Oregon but Sekgodiso is aiming higher after her exploits in Rabat last weekend.

“I am very proud of how I did in my first ever Diamond League, particularly in the wind,” she said.

“I’m hoping to be in the top three at the Worlds. I’m going to train hard and that competition is my main focus this year.

“At the African Championships, there’s nothing to worry about there, I know I’m going to take it [the title]. I’ve looked at the start lists and there’s no-one there who can beat me.”

The first round of the women’s 800m is scheduled for 06:55 GMT on Saturday, with the final at 12:45 GMT on Sunday.

Semenya, meanwhile, finished sixth in the 5,000m in Mauritius on Thursday in her first major championships outing since the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

She missed the qualifying standard for the World Championships – finishing over a minute behind winner Beatrice Chebet and more than 30 seconds slower than her personal best over the distance, which had made her an outsider for a podium spot.

The African Athletics Championships began on Wednesday at the newly constructed Cote d’Or Sports Complex in Port-Louis, and culminate on Sunday.


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