Semenya in second: ‘silver in Daegu is better than gold in Berlin’

2011-09-05 00:00

ALL that glitters may not be gold, but Caster Semenya’s silver medal in the 800 metres yesterday gave the South African team their fourth medal in the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Daegu, South Korea.

This equals the total achieved in Paris in 2003, which were the most successful for the country since the return to international competition.

It was never going to be a tactical run when Kenya’s former world champion, Janet Busienei, blasted through to take the lead from the break, with Jamaican Kenia Sinclair in her wake and Semenya stretching but content to drop into fifth. The bell rang with 400 m completed in 55,50 seconds, a split that put the race faster than world record pace. With 250 m remaining Semenya made her move to run on Busienei’s shoulder into the bend, taking the lead with 130 metres to go.

Although the gap had opened, Russian Mariya Savinova began her charge for the line off the bend, closing the gap as the South African tied in her bid for the line. Savinova took the honours in a world-leading 1:55,87 with Semenya taking silver in 1:56,35 and Busienei completing the podium in 1:57,42

“That was my dream to win here and I can hardly find words as to how happy I am,” said Savinova, the European and World Indoor champion.

Although unable to find the zip that had taken her through her semi-final, Semenya was happy with second.

“Winning a silver medal? I feel great, I’m really surprised,” she said the 20-year-old. “I just want to give it to Nelson Mandela.”

In post-race interviews the Tukkies athlete ranked the Daegu silver higher than her gold from Berlin.

“It’s a great feeling for me getting silver. It was really good. In 2009 I was a little kid, so when I was running it was just ‘Boom!’ This year I am more experienced. I am more of an athlete and know what it takes to win. If you saw my few races a few months ago, I wasn’t in good shape, so for me it was a great achievement to get silver.”

Race times and reports of being overweight dogged her when she entered the championships, which saw her transformation to world-class athlete.

“You know, every athlete has their own secret. This is Caster Semenya, you know me, I’ve got this magic touch,” she smiled.

“When I get into things they just change so you never know what’s going to happen.”

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