Sun, Apr 22, 2012 - Page 18 News List

South Africa’s Semenya qualifies for Games 800m

AP, JOHANNESBURG

Former world champion Caster Semenya on Friday qualified for the 800m at the London Olympics.

The South African eased concerns about her early season form by running 1 minute, 59.58 seconds in a provincial meet on her home track at the University of Pretoria.

It is the second time she ran faster than the qualifying time of 1:59.90, making her eligible for her first Olympics when South Africa’s team is likely announced in July.

“I have to win a gold [at the Olympics]. That’s what I want,” Semenya said. “My dream is to win the Olympics and that’s my plan. I feel OK, because now I can run good races again, run faster. Qualifying for the Olympics, it’s a good step forward.”

The 21-year-old Semenya achieved her first Olympic time when winning silver at last year’s world championships in South Korea.

She failed to break two minutes in her first two races this year, including the successful defense of her national title, but found her form in a dominant win on Friday with help from Namibian pacemaker Herunga Tjipekapora.

Tjipekapora led Semenya through about 450m before giving way to her on the track where she normally trains. Semenya’s nearest challengers finished well behind, with Monique Stander almost three seconds back in second place.

Semenya burst onto the scene by winning at the 2009 worlds as a teenager in a blistering time of 1:55.45, before a gender test controversy sidelined her for 11 months.

Semenya has overcome a string of setbacks since her stunning international debut.

After the enforced layoff while athletics’ governing body reviewed the gender test results, a niggling back injury in 2010 forced her to miss the Commonwealth Games and her relationship with then-coach Michael Seme broke down just before last year’s worlds.

The 800m race on Friday was Semenya’s third under new mentor and former Olympic champion Maria Mutola, but likely her last in South Africa before the Olympics.

Semenya will head to Europe next month to start her final buildup to the London Games. She is confirmed to run at the IAAF event in Ostrava, Czech Republic, on May 25 and the Diamond League meeting in Rome on May 31, manager Jukka Harkonen said.

“I am very happy with the time, now I know what my plans for the European season are,” Semenya said. “I don’t have to rush now, you just have to be patient and wait for the Olympics.”

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