Homeground advantage: Caster Semenya will attempt to break the 35-year-old SA record for the 1,000m. Standing in her way will be two determined Ugandans. Picture: GETTY IMAGES
Homeground advantage: Caster Semenya will attempt to break the 35-year-old SA record for the 1,000m. Standing in her way will be two determined Ugandans. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Caster Semenya is aiming to break the 1,000m SA record that has been standing for 35 years when she competes in the Liquid Telecom Athletics Grand Prix at Tuks Stadium on Thursday night.

The 27-year-old double Olympic champion‚ who was pipped by tennis great Serena Williams for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year award in Monaco last week‚ said on Tuesday she was focused on breaking the 2:37.2 record set by Ilze de Kock-Wicksell in 1983.

"Breaking the 1,000m record is the target for me‚" she said with a smile during the official media conference in Pretoria.

"I am more mature‚ we have practised the splits and understand how they are allocated and how I need to run.

"I will focus more on the first 800m — I will know when I hit the 800m mark whether the record is gone or not.

"The main target is to go at least two minutes or under in the 800m and that will determine how fast I can go."

Semenya’s attempt at the record is not going to be easy as she faces stiff competition from Ugandan runners Winnie Nanyondo and Halimah Nakaayi in what will be their first competitive race at this event.

"It is exciting because I am always racing in international competitions in Europe or the US and never at home‚" Semenya said. "So to face Winnie and Halimah at home is fantastic for the sport and I know they will want to run fast. I saw them run in Roodepoort and they mean business."

De Kock-Wicksell‚ who will be at Tuks to watch the race‚ said she was happy her record would likely be broken by a South African.

"Records are there to be broken and I will be there to witness it if it happens.

"Caster has done well for the past few years and has made the country proud. My advice to her is that she must make sure that she hits 800m under two minutes," she said.

"But she must not be under any pressure. She must go out there and enjoy the race‚" said the former champion, who works at Tuks.

The Ugandan athletes are keenly anticipating the race against Semenya and are hoping to cause an upset.

"This is why we came to South Africa‚ we want to race against Caster on African soil because it is important to us‚" said Nanyondo. "You know this will be an aggressive race with Caster in the mix.

"She is not scared of pushing the pace‚ so we know this will be a hard race‚" said Nakaayi‚ who won the 800m in Roodepoort last week.

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