Semenya faces Ugandan challenge at Athletix GP

Halimah Nakaayi, Caster Semenya and Winnie Nanyondo. Tobias Ginsberg

South African middle distance star Caster Semenya will face the dual Ugandan challenge of Winnie Nanyondo and Halimah Nakaayi in the rarely-run 1000m this Thursday, as they compete in the second of three legs of the Liquid Telecom Athletix Grand Prix series.

This will be a first for the entire line-up as not one of these athletes has raced in a competitive 1000m. The meet, held at the University of Pretoria (TUKS), will see Semenya debut in the series as she did not race at the opening event in Roodepoort a week ago.

Semenya, the current world and Olympic champion in the 800m, should start as favourite based on her Personal Best times, however this is a non-standard distance and will affect pace judgement. Nakaayi won the 800m at the meeting last Thursday, ahead of countrywoman Nanyondo.

Semenya, who also won bronze in the 1500m at the 2017 IAAF world Championships in London, is looking forward to the encounter, particularly in front of the crowd at TUKS, where she trains.

"It is always a pleasure to run here. This is now my home and I love racing in front of the people at Tuks. They are always very supportive," said Semenya in a media release.

On the Ugandan challenge, Semenya is relishing the chance to take on international athletes at home: "It is exciting. I am always racing international competitions in Europe or America, never at home.

"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."

A few weeks ago, Semenya hinted at chasing the South African record of 2:37.2 run by Ilse de Kock Wicksell in 1983, if the pace was right.

"I did mention that maybe the (SA) record could be on the cards a few weeks ago, but now with the Ugandan girls, I know it will be a hard race," she added.

Both the Ugandan athletes are keenly anticipating the race against Semenya. "This is why we came to South Africa. We want to race against Caster on African soil. It is important to us," said Nanyondo.

"You know this will be an aggressive race with Caster in the mix," said Nakaayi, the winner of the 800m in Roodepoort. "She is not scared of pushing the pace, so we know this will be a hard race."