South African star Caster Semenya moved a step closer to adding the Olympic title to her controversial 2009 world title as she eased into the 800m semi-finals yesterday.
The 21-year-old, who is coached by 2000 Sydney Olympics 800m champion Maria Mutola from Mozambique, finished second in her heat behind American Alysia Montano. Her time of 2min 00.71sec was the third fastest of the heats bettered only by Montano (2:00.47) and defending champion Pamela Jelimo of Kenya (2:00.54). Semenya had to undergo drug tests followed by gender tests following that magnificent victory in Berlin in 2009.
She was barred from the track for almost a year before being cleared to run again and her comeback was hampered by a lower back injury. Semenya, who handled the traumatic situation with great dignity, was pleased to have not encountered any problems in her heat. She was not that happy with the manner of the race, Montano had gone off like a hare and the others fought out the battle for the other two automatic qualifying places with Semenya prevailing. “It was a tactical race.,” she said.