Semenya favourite in Finland

2010-07-13 13:02

World 800m champion Caster Semenya will toe the line as the

favourite to win against a weak field at a low-key meeting in Finland on

Thursday, her first race since winning the global title in Berlin last


The 19-year-old was given the green light by the International

Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to run against women last week,

ending an 11-month probe into her gender that kept her off the track.

It has been widely speculated that Semenya underwent medical

treatment during the last year, and there are questions over whether or not she

will be able to reach the heights she climbed in the past.

Semenya has been training hard but her coach, Michael Seme, has

admitted she is “unfit” because she has done little speedwork and will need time

to sharpen up, which was confirmed by her results in two 600m time trials last


Seme, however, remains confident she will be able to produce fast

times again, once she has a few races under her belt.

The day after the IAAF announced she had been cleared, Athletics

South Africa (ASA) requested a fitness test, and after Semenya clocked poor

times of 1:35 and 1:38 over 600m, she was omitted from the team named on Sunday

for the African Athletics Championships at the end of July.

Instead, she will focus on preparing for the Commonwealth Games in

Delhi, India, in October. And while Semenya hasn’t raced in 11 months, she won’t

need to be in top form to topple a mediocre field at the Lappeenranta


The teenager is the 13th fastest woman in history, having won the

world title in 1:55.45 last year. The rest of the field should struggle if the

South African is anywhere near her best.

None of the other 17 women included in the entry lists (the race is

likely to be split into A and B divisions) have broken the two-minute barrier in

their careers.

Olga Yekimenko of the Ukraine is the fastest in the field this

year, having clocked 2:03.33 in Prague last month – almost eight seconds slower

than Semenya’s personal best.

Two other South Africans will also be in action at the event

including long jump sensation Luvo Manyonga.

The 19-year-old jumped 8.19m in Bottrop, Germany, last week,

improving the national junior record set by Olympic long jump silver medallist

Khotso Mokoena (8.09m) at the World Junior Championships in Grosseto, Italy, in


The distance also improved the African junior record held by

Ignisious Gaisah of Ghana (8.12m) since 2002.

Manyonga will look to go even better in Finland, facing a strong

field with five of the 10 men having jumped over 8m this season, on the eve of

next week’s World Junior Championships in Moncton, Canada.

National champion Cornel Fredericks is the fastest in the field

this year in the men’s 400m hurdles, having set a personal best of 49.12 seconds

in Germiston, Johannesburg, in April. The next best in the line-up is Japan’s

Yuta Imazeki who clocked 49.77 in Osaka, Japan, in May.


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