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Ken Borland

Semenya lifts weight from her shoulders

Posted on April 24, 2012 by Ken

Former 800m world champion Caster Semenya said a weight had been lifted from her shoulders after she qualified for the Olympic Games in a Yellow Pages Series meet at the Tukkies University Stadium in Pretoria on Friday.

Semenya eased to victory in the women’s 800m in a time of one minute, 59.58 seconds, well inside the Olympic qualifying standard of 1:59.90.

South African Olympic organisers require athletes to meet the qualifying standard twice, once in a local meet and the other internationally, and the 21-year-old Semenya gained her first qualifying time from her second-placed finish in last year’s World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.

“It’s a weight off my shoulders and I’m very happy with my time,” Semenya told reporters after the race. “I just ran my own race and it went okay, it’s best that way and I enjoyed it, that’s why I qualified.”

Semenya failed to reach the qualifying standard in last weekend’s national championships in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth, clocking 2:02.68 in windy conditions, but she became the first woman to run under two minutes on South African soil in 21 years on Friday, after running the first 400 metres in 57 seconds.

“The start was good and we had trained hard and planned to qualify in South Africa. There’s now no need for me to go to the African Championships and I know my plans for the European season, I must just be patient,” Semenya said.

The 2009 world champion, who had to undergo controversial gender tests until July 2010, seemed to make the qualifying time with ease on Friday and she said she hoped to run even faster in Europe.

“I possibly can go quicker, tonight was just my third race of the season, and I hope to go below 1:57 in Europe, but it depends on my training, which needs to strengthen me up for the Olympics. I need to last and one race does not mean anything,” Semenya said.

“In 2009 I was a little kid, I now have more experience, plus I now have Maria Mutola as my coach, who has even more experience having run for more than 10 years in Europe. We have a good relationship, we’re like best friends.

“But I’m still young and fresh, I have no pressure on me and I have to take advantage of that,” Semenya said.

The Tukkies University student said she will compete at the World Challenge in Ostrava on May 25 and in Rome on June 1, before temporarily switching to 400-metre races to work on her speed.

The evening meet brought just one more Olympic qualifying performance, with Khotso Mokoena leaping 8.29 metres to win the long jump.

The 2008 Olympic silver medallist – South Africa’s only medallist at the Beijing Games – still needs to reach the qualifying standard in an international event in order to qualify for the Olympics.

Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, the 2009 men’s 800 metres world champion, continued a winning comeback to the track after an achilles injury kept him out of action for most of the previous year, by winning Friday night’s 800 metres in a time of 1:46.12, outside the Olympic qualifying standard of 1:45.60.

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