(L-R) Pamela Jelimo of Kenya, Lynsey Sharp of Great Britain and Eleni Filandra of Greece compete in the Women's 800m Round 1 Heats on Day 12 of the London 2012 Olympic Games on 08 August 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright

London 2012 - Event Report - Women's 800m Semi-Finals

Pamela Jelimo continued the defence of her title and the odds must favour the Kenyan becoming the woman ever to win a second 800m gold medal since the event was introduced into the Olympic schedule at the 1928 Amsterdam Games (1932 to 56 not contested).

Jelimo who was the first ever Kenyan woman to clinch an Olympic gold medal four years ago in Beijing, was quite happy to sit in third place as Greece's Eleni Filandra pulled the first semi-final through 400m in 60.15 with Russian champion Ekaterina Poistogova sitting on her shoulder.

The 22-year-old waited until 250m to run before making an initial probe upon the leader's then with 200m remaining put in a solid kick with only an alert Poistogova responding and the pair qualification assured, remained almost abreast until the finish line.

Jelimo got the verdict by 0.03sec in 1:59.42 with Colombian record holder Rosibel Garcia third clocking a season's best of 2:00.16 for third.

Poistogova summing up the race, said: "I had the impression that no one wanted to lead. I didn't particularly want to lead. It was easier for me to stay in second, as I could look up at the scoreboard. I could see that third place was quite a way behind - I then knew I would have a place in the final."

The second heat saw the USA's Alysia Johnson Montano adopt her normal front running tactics towing her opponents through the first lap in a quickish 57.36 tracked by 2008 silver medallist Janeth Jepkosgei and Russia's European champion Yelena Arzhakova.

Little had been seen of the 2009 World champion Caster Semenya at this point, but with half a lap remaining she suddenly burst to the front and piling on the pressure around the bend the South African produced the semis' fastest mark and a season's quickest time of 1:57.67.

Behind the South African there was a lively battle for the other automatic place and Arzhakova grabbed it by 0.13sec in 1:58.13 ahead of a tiring Jepkosgei with Montano clocking 1:58.42 good enough also to go into Saturday's final.

Semenya propelling herself for the first time into the World Top 10 this year and now equal sixth with Arzhakova, of her medal chances said: "I think the time I ran makes me very confident. You have to think about your own race, you have to think of yourself."

Having finally got her act together after a low key season, she added: "I was a bit nervous but this crowd makes me feel at home and reminds me of good memories. It's about putting on the spikes and then just running."

The final heat saw reigning Asian Games champion Mukasheva Matsko go for broke and taking the race by the horns she sped to the front after 250m and continued her pacey attack by leading through the bell in 57.79 with an advantage of almost 20 metres from the chasing pack.

The Kazakh who has won all of her three races this year held the point but down the back straight Mariya Savinova last year's World champion began to make her move, advancing from sixth before unleashing her kick with 200m remaining.

Francine Niyonsaba the African champion of Burundi didn't allow the Russian to have it all her own way and chased her determinedly down the home straight but the Savinova prevailed by 1/100sec in 1:58.57 with Matsko lowering the personal best of 1:59.79 she set earlier this year marginally to 1:59.20.

"It was a tactical race, they took it out slowly," said defending champion Jelimo. "My plan was to qualify for the final. There is a great pressure (going into the final), it's going to be tough. I don't want to be nervous." "What's important was for us (the Kenyans) to qualify for the final. It was tough, there was a little bit of pushing, but what's important is to know how to be tactical, how to be smart and how to look for your space."
Dave Martin for the IAAF