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Athletics | SA Track & Field

Caster Semenya © Gallo Images

Semenya taking nothing for granted

Currently in eighth place overall, Caster Semenya will aim to raise South Africa even further up medal table when she lines up in the 800m final tonight – the last night of action at the World Championships in London.

She may be unbeaten over the two-lap event since 2015, but both the Olympic champion and her coach are taking nothing for granted, considering how many surprises this London track has served up over the last 10 days.

Speaking after cruising through her semifinal on Saturday, Semenya said: “I think the final will be about how you calculate your lap, especially the last 300. That’s the main thing for us now.

“We have a strong field but we just have to try and relax as much as we can so we can do better in the final. But you can’t tell much – you can’t underestimate your opponents. You can’t calculate or measure them. It’s just about trying to enjoy the race.”

Semenya’s coach Jean Verster is confident, but wary of being overly so.

“A lot of the other girls look comfortable as well. We take nothing for granted. Luckily we had a day’s rest but we’re ready. It’s going to be a tough race. All the favourites are basically there as well – almost all of them. There are always some surprises at these championships so we’ll be ready for anything.”

Semenya will be lining up in the final against both the silver and bronze medallists from Rio last year in Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba and Kenya’s Margaret Wambui as well as American Ajee Wilson, who has been in great form this season, and Canada’s Melissa Bishop.

Also in the race, after initially being disqualified for unsportsmanlike behaviour after a shove in her semifinal, is Briton Lynsey Sharp.

Niyonsaba has not held back in stating that it’s the gold she’s after.

“Every race is difficult, but I'm looking to improve my time and then I'm looking for the gold,” she said. “I do not know what to expect in the final - slow or a fast pace. But I am here to win, not to lose."

Speaking about Niyonsaba and Wambui, Verster said: “They look good. I don’t know if it’s good or bad but they were in a slow semifinal (2:01.11) – which was, we thought, the toughest one, and it was the slowest one. So it was a bit of a surprise there.

“Sometimes going slower in the semis is a bit of an advantage because you’re a bit more rested but sometimes you actually need to get out there and stretch the legs. We prefer to have a semi that’s a little bit quicker so you get into your rhythm, start feeling how it feels to go through that pain again. So I’m happy with the fact that it was a bit quicker and I’m happy overall. It will be a good race,” he added of his athlete’s 1:58.90 semifinal.

Semenya, who last won the 800m world title in 2009, will compete at 9.10pm South African time before the men’s 1500m and both 4x400m relays bring an end to these World Championships.


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