Caster Semenya wins S. Africa titles
DURBAN, South Africa -- Caster Semenya powered to an impressive double at the South African championships Sunday, winning the 800 meters and 1,500 meters in a buildup to defending her 800 title at the 2011 world championships.
The world champion, formerly at the center of a gender-test controversy, was far too strong for the 800 field at Durban's Kings Park Athletics Stadium. She led from the start and ran away from defending champion Mapaseka Makhanya to win in 2 minutes, 2.10 seconds.
Racing about an hour and 20 minutes later in the 1,500, the 20-year-old Semenya produced a burst to come from way back and breeze past leader Lebogang Phalula and finish in 4:12.93 on the final day of the two-day meet.
Despite missing out on a sub-2-minute time in the 800 that she had targeted before the nationals, Semenya gave her season a significant boost ahead of the European meets and the worlds in Daegu, South Korea, in August.
"I was a little bit upset [to miss out on 2 minutes]," Semenya said in a TV interview. "I still have the season in Europe, I'll try to get under two minutes in Europe as I didn't manage it today."
Semenya was ordered to undergo gender tests following her victory in the 800 at the 2009 worlds. She was sidelined from competition for 11 months because of the gender controversy, finally being cleared to compete again last July.
"I'm not thinking about those things anymore," Semenya told the South African Press Association. "That's in the past and I'm looking to the future. I'm just concerned with winning the world championships and the Olympics next year."
Semenya also impressed in the 1,500 when she suddenly kicked into gear at the final bend, emerging from fourth place to run down Phalula for the victory.
It was only Semenya's second 1,500 race this year. She has said she may run the 800 and 1,500 at the worlds and the 2012 London Olympics.
In the men's 400 hurdles final, LJ van Zyl continued his strong form to win in 47.73 seconds, the second-fastest time ever by a South African and just outside the South African-record 47.66 he ran in February.
His times are the two best in the world this year.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press