Athletics: Semenya qualifies for London Olympics

Reuters, Saturday 21 Apr 2012

Semenya underwent gender tests at the 2009 Berlin world championships where she won the 800 gold medal

Caster Semenya
Caster Semenya of South Africa takes part in the women's 800 m Yellow Pages third series Olympics qualifier competition in Pretoria April 20, 2012. Semenya qualified for the 2012 London Olympics. (Photo: REUTERS)

Former world 800 metres champion Caster Semenya qualified for the London Olympics on Friday when she eased to victory in one minute 59.58 seconds at a Yellow Pages Series meeting.

Semenya, 21, underwent gender tests at the 2009 Berlin world championships where she won the 800 gold medal.

She did not compete for almost a year until the International Association of Athletics Federations cleared her to run again after accepting the conclusions of an expert medical panel.

The South African Olympic committee requires athletes to meet the qualifying time twice, one at a local meeting and once in an international competition.

Semenya reached her first qualifying mark when she finished second 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. "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. On Friday she became the first woman in 21 years to run under two minutes on South African soil.

"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.

"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, who is now coached by former Olympic and three times world champion Maria Mutola, said she would compete in Ostrava on 25 May and in Rome on 1 June. She would then run some 400 metres races to work on her speed.

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

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