News26 Aug 2009

Semenya rockets to the top of the world


South Africa's Caster Semenya celebrates her IAAF World Championship title in the women's 800m in the Berlin Olympic Stadium (© Getty Images)

Capping a sensational rise, Caster Semenya captured the 800m World title, the first ever for South Africa in the middle distances.

The 18-year-old, who has led the world since her 1:56.72 breakout performance at the African Junior championships last month, dominated the field to reach the line unchallenged in 1:55.45, naturally, another world leader.

The determined teenager took control before reaching the bell (56.83), and kept padding her lead to reach the line unchallenged. But behind her, the battle for the remaining two medals was fierce.

Kenya’s defending champion Janeth Jepkosgei, who was near the front in the early going, found her self boxed in over the second half and couldn’t conclusively break free until reaching the home straight, where Ukraine’s Yuliya Krevsun was guarding the silver medal position. But as the Ukrainian began to fad just slightly, Jepkosgei, the Olympic silver medallist, began her furious burst for the line, as did Briton Jennifer Meadows. The trio slugged it out over the waning metres with the Kenyan prevailing by the slightest of margins in a season’s best 1:57.90, with Meadows taking the bronze in 1:57.93, a career best for the 28-year-old.

Two day's before, Semenya already the 2009 breakout performer in the event this summer had looked the strongest, producing the quickest semi-final time of the night. After sitting patiently off the lead early on, the South African had gone to the front with about 250 metres to go and stayed there, reaching the line in 1:58.66 for any easy qualification.

And in reality when Olympic champion Pamela Jelimo, last year’s sole winner of the $1 million AF Golden League Jackpot ended her first World championship appearance stepping off the track just before reaching the 600 metre point in the third semi-final heat, apparently injured, the writing was already on the wall for the rest of the female two lap runners. Nothing was ever going to stop the African Junior champion Semenya from taking gold.

Semenya who began the year an unknown with a PB of 2:04.23 having won the Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune in autumn 2008, leaves Berlin having rocketed to stardom, the World champion, the 13th quickest runner of all time, 1:55.45.


NB. The athlete did not give a press conference in Berlin

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