SA’s next Olympic title hopeful to run her first 800m heat today
After keeping a low profile the last month or so, Caster Semenya will finally step into action to bid for the Olympic gold she missed four years ago.
There are no medals on offer for SA today, but there are a couple of opportunities for athletes to set themselves up for podium challenges, like Semenya.
Semenya surged from the back of the field after the first lap to haul in all but one of her rivals, Russian victor Mariya Savinova, who was later implicated in the country’s drug scandal.
Many observers insist Semenya, the world No1 this year, is a certainty for gold in the 800m.
So strong was her form that she had even considered entering the 400m, won by Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas with a swan dive on the finish line to beat American Allyson Felix on Monday night.
But Semenya pulled out of that event shortly before the Games started, and since then there has been speculation in some quarters that she might be struggling with health or an injury.
Imagine if South Africa’s best hope of a gold medal is not in top form?
The speculation, however, will be settled one way or another when Semenya hits the track today. The heats begin at 3.55pm (SA time).
Semenya is expected to add another gold to SA’s haul of seven medals to date, comprising one gold, five silver and a bronze. Seven is SA’s best haul since 1952. But golds determine position on the medals table and right now SA are lying 29th – their best finish since readmission was 24th four years ago and the worst was the tied 70th at Beijing 2008.
Semenya will unlikely need to break two minutes to get past the heats, which means the real racing will begin in the semifinals tomorrow.
She would have Friday off ahead of the final on Saturday.
Another medallist from London 2012 is in action today – kayak sprinter Bridgitte Hartley, who managed a bronze last time out.
Her heats and semifinals are scheduled for today, and she was pretty chuffed with her results in the 200m event on Monday – she made only the B final there, but that’s not her strong race.
Hartley will want to ensure she books her spot in the 500m A-final, having missed out at the world championships last year.
Also competing today are decathlete Willem Coertzen and 5 000m runner Elroy Gelant.
The women’s golfers, Ashleigh Simon and Paula Reto, tee off in the first round of their individual stroke play, and BMX rider Kyle Dodd participates in the seeding race.