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Athletics | SA Track & Field

Caster Semenya © Gallo Images

Semenya qualifies for London Olympics



Caster Semenya now believes she can win an Olympic gold medal after finally booking her place in the 2012 London Games at the final Yellow Pages meeting in Pretoria on Friday night.

The former world 800 metres champion demolished the rest of the field in a time of one minute, 59.58 seconds, dipping below the Olympic qualifying time of 1:59.90.

"My plan is to win gold, maybe to get to the podium, that is a very important thing to do, so we will just have to wait and see," said Semenya.

"I am very happy with the time, now I know what my plans for the European season are.

"I don't have to rush now, you just have to be patient and wait for the Olympics."

Semenya reached the qualifying time for the first time at the IAAF World Championships in South Korea last year, where she relinquished her title to Mariya Savinova of Russia.

She had the advantage of running on her home track as well as the assistance of pacemaker Herunga Tjipekapora of Namibia.

Semenya's closest rival, Monique Stander, finished the race in a time of 2:02.57, while Mapaseka Makhanya followed in third place in 2:04.77.

It is the first time in over two decades that a South African woman has crossed below two minutes in the two-lapped race, with Zelda Pretorius the last to do it at a time of 1:58.85 in 1991, also in Pretoria.

The 21-year-old Semenya missed qualifying time at the SA Senior Championships in Port Elizabeth last weekend, where she lacked strong enough competition to push her hard.

She now joins decathlete Willem Coertzen, one-lap hurdler Cornel Fredericks, South African javelin throw record holder Sunette Viljoen and world 400m hurdles bronze medallist LJ van Zyl, who have all booked their places for the Games in July.

Earlier, Olympic long jump silver medallist Khotso Mokoena finally recorded his first Olympic qualifying distance with 8.29 metres in his first leap of the evening.

Mokoena then recorded two no-jumps and then pulled out of three more jumps.

This is his best jump since 2009 where he reached a personal best of 8.50m in Madrid.

Mokoena said patience would pay off as there were a little less that 100 days before the Games.

"We've been working hard but still have a lot to do and a lot to prove, but everything is going well," said Mokoena.

"My coach said I should be patient and that everything that we are working towards will come up again."

Junior athlete Mpho Maputha finished second with a distance of 7.68m, while Francois Coetzee jumped 7.20m.

Meanwhile, former world 800m champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi missed the qualifying time once again as he stopped the clock on 1:46.12.

He was followed by Thapelo Madiba in second place with a time of 1:47.91 with Daniel Nghipandula third in 1:48.15.

Like Mulaudzi, the qualifying time of 55.50 seconds eluded South African women's 400m hurdles champion Wenda Theron, who posted 56.05.

Janet Lawless crossed the line in second place at 57.29, with Anneri Ebersohn third at a time of 58.25.



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