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Caster faces true test

By Mark Etheridge

She’s won three in a row since her July comeback but our world 800-metre champion Caster Semenya faces her sternest test yet on Friday night.

She lines up for the final meeting of the IAAF DIamond League Series, the Ivo van Damme Memorial in Brussels, Belgium and there’s no doubting that this is the toughest field she’ll tackle since being cleared to run again last month after almost a year in the wilderness due to speculation over her gender.

At 1min 59.90sec, Semenya’s win at the ISTAF meeting in Berlin on Sunday was the quickest of her three comeback races (the other two were 2:04 and 2:02) but she’s still only the world’s 29th fastest woman over two laps this year.

Mind you, judging by the manner in which she ran on Sunday, she’s going to be striding up that list extremely quicker and the presence of faster athletes in the field on Friday is likely to act as a spur.

Heading the line-up is the world’s quickest woman this year, American Alysia Johnson, who ran 1:57.34 in Eugene, Oregon last month.

In fact, three of the quickest women on the IAAF rankings are in the race with second placed Mariya Savinova of Russia (1:57.56) and Janeth Jekposgei of Kenya (1:57.75) there as well.

And Halima Hachlaf, sixth quickest this year (1:58.40) is also there. In fact of the provisional 12-strong field named thus far only India’s Tintu Luka has run slower than Semenya this year. Making up the field is expected pacemaker, Karen Shinkins of Ireland.