Caster’s uneasy crown

2011-06-04 00:00

CASTER Semenya faces her toughest challenge of the season so far when she lines up for the 800 m in today’s Samsung Diamond League in Eugene, Oregon.

The world champion is only 18th on the season’s rankings with the 2:00,66 she ran in Dakar and will face the likes of 2007 world champion Janeth Jepkosgei, Pamela Jelimo, the current Olympic champion, and Kenia Sinclair, the 2006 World indoor silver medallist. Although many have yet to break the two minutes this year, USA’s Erica Moore has the slowest personal best of 2:01.12 and Jemilo is fastest with a 1:54.01.

As defending world champion Semenya is an automatic selection to the World Championships. According to IAAF rules, however, she will need to run close to her best if she intends to retain her title.

Other South Africans lining up in Oregon are Sunette Viljoen, Khotso Mokoena and Oscar Pistorius.

Viljoen faces a quality field, where only Rachel Yurkovich has yet to go over the 60 m barrier this year. Olympic Silver medallist Mariya Abakumova has the second best javelin throw of the year with a 65,81m and Barbora Špotáková is ranked third. Viljoen has adopted a gradual build-up for the world championships and only achieved her qualifying distance in Ostrava on Tuesday.

Khotso Mokoena opens his international season by facing the Olympic Champion Irving Saladino. The two have met 17 times, with the Panamanian coming up trumps on 13 of these occasions, the last being the Olympic Final where Saladino won the gold and Mokoena the silver. That said, it is still early enough in both athletes’ seasons for a win to fall to either of them.

Oscar Pistorius will put in another attempt to achieve the 45,25sec needed to allow him to race able-bodied athletes at the World Championships 400 m. Pistorius is still a significant distance off the required mark and much will depend on his lane draw as he takes time to wind up on the first bend before the massive advantage is gained when momentum kicks in on the straight.

Five-time world champion Jeremy Wariner will be in the same race and could be a useful rabbit for the South African.

With less than three months before the championships, things are beginning to heat up in the leagues as athletes try to book their seats for Daegu.

While the track athletes are able to continue through to close to the championships, the distance runners need time to prepare, and with most of the major northern hemisphere marathons over, many countries have announced their marathon teams.

Sadly the South African selectors or road commission don’t seem to understand the needs of the athletes they represent as they are leaving these distance men and women in a quandary as to when and what to train for.

If they are not going to be selected for their country, they need to be preparing for the rewarding autumn marathons, such as Berlin, New York, and Chicago.

Given that this is pre-Olympic year it makes sense that the runners who are earmarked for London 2012 should get the opportunity to run as a team in Daegu, particularly since for the first time this century South Africa is in a position to field a women’s team.

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