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Athletics | SA Track & Field

Caster Semenya © Gallo Images

Caster on track for another medal



South Africa already have more medals than they’ve ever earned at an athletics world championships, and they’re likely to extend that haul even further in London over the weekend.

Wayde van Niekerk’s 200m silver on Thursday took the total to five (two golds, one silver and two bronze), and on Friday night, Caster Semenya sailed through her 800m semifinal to keep her campaign for two medals at these championships well on track.

The Olympic champion, who claimed 1 500m bronze earlier in the week, powered to first place in her semifinal in 1:58.90 to book her spot in Saturday’s final as the fastest qualifier.

"We are just trying to enjoy what we do and I tried to calculate how to run the race,” she said afterwards. “I just needed to keep my muscles moving. Anyone can win the race so I’m happy.”

Also pleased that Semenya had safely negotiated the semifinal was her coach Jean Verster.

“It was good. The semifinals are always tough in the 800 because there’s no lane running so there’s pushing and shoving and anything can happen,” he said.

“It’s a very short race for the speed they’re running at so I’m just happy that nothing happened and we got through safely. As we saw – there were a few athletes disqualified as well so it’s cut-throat. I’m just happy it’s over and we can start focusing on Sunday.”

Also running in the 800m semifinals was SA’s Gena Lofstrand, who missed out on the final after finishing eighth in 2:03.67.

“I really wanted to run a PB today so it didn’t quite work out like I wanted but I think for me it was an achievement just to make the semifinal. I learnt a lot from the experience and I know what to expect next time.

Speaking about Lofstrand’s performance, Verster added: “She was gutsy. I spoke to her and her coach beforehand and what they was hoping for was a quick race so she could have a paced race but unfortunately it ended up being rather a pedestrian race. She even almost took the lead at the bell. I think she was frustrated because her PB is 2:01 and she was ready to run closer to two minutes flat.

“I think it’s the first time ever that South Africa have had two women in the semifinals for the 800m though so it’s good to see the youngsters coming through. Although she wouldn’t have had a chance at this level if it hadn’t been for the relay that was added at a late stage and in my opinion she should have been here from the start – like a lot of others,” added Verster, alluding to the Athletics South Africa selection shambles ahead of these championships.

Burundi’s Olympic silver medallist, Francine Niyonsaba, was the winner of Lofstrand’s semifinal in a time of 2:01.11 and said afterwards: "I am here to do my best and make it safe from the semifinals. I do not know what to expect in the final - slow or a fast pace. But I am here to win, not to lose."

Saturday morning will see the SA women’s 4x400m relay team in action. A combination of Lofstrand, Justine Palframan, Wenda Nel, Ariane Nel or Zoe Engler will line up to try and book a place in Sunday night’s final – the last women’s event of the championships.



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