Semenya hits turbo button to get into 800m final

2011-09-03 00:00

THE South African team look set to become the most successful team since 2003 at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Daegu yesterday winning a silver in the 4 x 400 metre relay, bronze for Sunette Viljoen in the Javelin and Caster Semenya displaying her turbo-boosting form to progress through to the 800 metre final.

It may have been the last race of the night, but according to LJ van Zyl, who ran the anchor leg in place of Oscar Pistorius, “it was the best relay since 2005”.

KwaZulu-Natal’s Shane Victor led the quartet out from lane eight running blind around the first bend but securing the lead which was lost through a hesitant change over to Ofentse Mogawane.

“In the first few steps I saw a few guys ahead of me and I thought, you know what I’m not going to let them get to the first 100 metres before I hit the mark.

“I did it I hit the mark before them and then I said I’m just going to maintain it and I fight through to the end. I felt good and I’m proud to be South African,” said the former 400 metre SA champion of 2009.

“I was so tired [over the last 30 metres] I was dead in fact — but you know what I just thought back at home in South Africa they are now on their feet, I couldn’t let my country down. We came so far we were not going to let it slip away from our hands because we really had it.”

In the change over it was Jamaican Riker Hylton who took off in the lead with Willie de Beer hot on his heels and Angelo Taylor in pursuit. De Beer made full use of the lane width to keep Taylor at bay.

“I was definitely aware, — I think people call it a heightened awareness — of the man in front and the man at the back andsomehow that fuelled me to run better,” said de Beer, who handed over to LJ van Zyl, who the previous night had won the bronze in the 400 metre hurdles.

“It was very technical. I knew Merritt [USA] was behind me. He did it at the [400 metre] final last night. I tried to box him in the middle and I tried to go at the end. He was very strong at the end and he deserved the gold medal,” said van Zyl.

It was a pride and fighting spirit that saw javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen produce the throw of her life to give SA a second bronze medal of the championships.

The 27 year old set the tone for the evening with a 64,36-metre first attempt and finished the round in second position behind defending champion Barbora Spotakova who opened with 68,80 metres.

Viljoen displayed a confidence that had previously been missing when she extended her series with 65,20 and 63,12 metres before letting rip with a 68,38-metre.

“It was absolutely amazing to release the 68, I knew I had to keep focused for the whole competition because everyone is up there and fighting and fighting and fighting,” said Viljoen.

Russian Maria Abakumova let loose a 71,25-metre in the second round to move into the lead and her fifth round 71,99 metres set a new world leading mark and Championship record which secured her the title.

It all happened in the fifth round with Spotakova improving her distance to a season’s best of 71,58 metres, and Viljoen setting her African mark of 68,38 metres to earn the bronze.

“In a final anything, anything, anything, can happen. It doesn’t matter what distances you come into the competition with, everyone starts on a square level and you just have to stay focused for the whole time.”

Caster Semenya pressed the turbo button for the first time since winning the 800 metre gold medal in Berlin to progress through to the third of the semi-final heats.

The 20 year old was clearly pacing herself over the initial 100 metres and at the break dropped into sixth position as Russian Ekaterina Kostetskaya pulled the field through 400 metre in 59,57 seconds for the slowest first lap of the night.

Semenya commenced her build up with 350 metres to go, moving off the curb and then briefly hitting the turbo button to take the lead with 200 metres remaining.

It was a sight that South Africans had waited two years to see, and one many had thought had been lost forever.

Moving away from the field, the Tukkies athlete never looked concerned and was even able to turn down the jets as she crossed the line in one minute and 58,07 seconds, reducing her seasons best and dipping under the two minute mark for only the third time this year.

Kostetskaya qualified with second in 1:58,64 and Jamaican Kenia Sinclair went through as one of the fastest loser spots thanks to Semenya who had converted the slowest first lap into the fastest semi-final of the evening.

Semenya initially sidestepped the media, saying that she had been advised not to give interviews. When asked where the advice came from she pointed to herself.

Russian Mariya Savinova had the next fastest qualifier winning the second semi-final in 1:58,45 with Kenyan Janeth Busienei directly on her shoulder. Yuliya Rusanova gave Russia its third finalist winning the first semi in 1:58,73. As a result of her back straight kick, Semenya regained her status of favourite for the final and moved up the ranking from 13th to sixth with Russians filling all five top spots.

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