Pretoria (Tshwane), South Africa – 2009 World 800m champion Caster Semenya utilized home ground advantage to secure her London Olympic dreams at the third of the Yellow Pages Track and Field meets in Pretoria (Fri 20).
The 21-year-old had backed off from attempting the sub-two minute mark at the previous week’s National Championships due to the wind, but on her home track she made no mistake and won in 1:59.60 – dipping under the qualifying standard by 0.3 seconds.
Namibian Tjipekapora Herunga, a frequent competitor in South Africa, provided the pace for much of the race before Semenya pushed on to the line, leaving Monique Stander to finish a distant second (2:02.57) and Mapaseka Makhanya closing the podium in 2:04.77.
Earlier Herunga had claimed victory in the 400m, crossing the line in 51.90 seconds to secure a B standard qualification, while Estie Wittstock was still well off the mark with her 53.02.
Home ground was also the key for World Long Jump and Olympic silver medallist Khotso Mokoena whose first trial saw him sail out to 8.29m. The almost ideal conditions were a far cry from the wind of Port Elizabeth last week where he had surrendered by national title with a best of 8.06m. It was Mokoena’s best performance since winning silver at the 2009 IAAF World Championships and it puts him on the second step of Athletics South Africa’s three-step qualification for the Olympics.
Each athlete has to meet the A qualification standard twice and compete in last weekend’s South African Championships. All that is required of Mokoena now is a second qualification in a suitable international meeting. He can then join the quintet of LJ van Zyl (400m Hurdles), Cornel Fredericks (400m Hurdles), Sunette Viljoen (Javelin Throw) and new Decathlon national record-holder Willem Coertzen on the list of track and field qualifiers.
It was close but no cigar for two other Olympic wannabes. Multiple World championships medallist Mbulaeni Mulaudzi was once again just out of pace in the 800m where the required 1:45.60 eluded him by less than a second. Mulaudzi, the 2009 IAAF World champion, is however getting into form and the 1:46.12 at altitude is sure to evolve into a qualification in Europe where the competition is tougher and more intense. Junior Thapelo Madiba finished second in 1:47.91, well under the IAAF criteria of 1:51.00 to compete in the IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona in July.
Although Wenda Theron set a personal best of 55.79 for the 400m Hurdles at the National Championships last week, she has to shave that down to 55.50 for London, and that is beginning to look to be a big call for the 23-year-old who ran 56.05 on her home track.
Norrie Williamson for the IAAF
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