Caster Semenya begins her 800m campaign, while Wayde van Niekerk wraps up his bid for a rare double
London — Caster Semenya returns to the world championship fray in London on Thursday‚ embarking on her campaign for a second podium finish‚ this time in her premier 800m event.
With a 1,500m bronze medal safely in her bag‚ her focus will be stretching her unbeaten 800m streak‚ which stands at 26 since late 2015.
The final of this event on Sunday promises to be a close affair if the last Diamond League contest in Monaco is anything to go by.
Then‚ Olympic champion Semenya was pushed to a new South African record as she won by just 0.2sec ahead of Rio Games silver medallist Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi.
The top five of that race were separated by less than two seconds‚ offering a narrower bunching than even the Rio Games showdown.
American Ajee Wilson and Kenya’s Margaret Wambui could also be in the mix come the final sprint.
But Semenya looked unfazed at her hotel this week‚ seemingly demonstrating more concern for completing an assignment towards her sports science degree at the North West University.
The 26-year-old plans to graduate at the end of the year.
Semenya is SA’s last realistic chance of silverware at the weekend‚ with the only other South Africans still to compete being the women’s 4x400m team in the relay heats on Saturday morning and race-walker Lebogang Shange in the 20km race walk on Sunday afternoon.
Wayde van Niekerk appears to have his plate full when he competes in the 200m final tonight.
His ticket to the superstardom Usain Bolt has tipped him for is waiting atop the podium‚ but after his subpar race in Wednesday night’s semifinals‚ ascending that step could seem like climbing Everest.
It’s possible Van Niekerk hadn’t quite got the 400m final out of his legs from the previous night‚ and that he will return on Thursday with his turbo jets firing at full throttle.
He will need to be at his best if he wants to land one of the rarest doubles in world athletics‚ achieved at a world championships only by American phenomenon Michael Johnson back in 1995.