Semenya safely into Olympic 800m semi-finals | TeamSA - TeamSA

Semenya safely into Olympic 800m semi-finals

By Mark Etheridge in London

Former world champion and current world silver medallist, Caster Semenya on Wednesday cruised into Thursday’s semi-finals of the women’s 800 metres.

Running from late eight she ended second behind runaway leader Alysia Johnson of the United States.

With the first two in each of the six heats qualifying automatically time was not of the essence but Semenya ended with a 2min 00.71sec finish with Johnson clocked at 2:00.47. It must be said though that Johnson had lead by the proverbial country mile until the last 50m or so when she almost slowed to a walk.

In their heat, the first heat, only Johnson had a quicker time this season with a 1:57.37 compared to Semenya’s 1:59.18 run in Germany.

The winning time in heat one would prove to be the fastest of the heats.

Semenya stayed out of trouble from the gun, as Johnson went solo and was was second from 200m into the race. The first lap went by in 55.55sec with Caster and the bunch about 20min back.

With 200m to go Johnson had a 3.2sec gap but clearly opted to save herself for Thursday night’s semi-final.

Whether Caster was also holding something back or was stretched is out for debate but she looked to be comfortable in her solid second.

“The pace was OK,” she briefly told media afterwards, “but I think we’ll have to go quicker than two minutes in the semi.”

There in lies the burn as Semenya has only dipped under the 2min barrier on two occasions this season. Tomorrow it seems almost certain that she’ll have to run close to 1:59 unless she’s in a slow tactical semi where positions count more than time.