Caster's moment? | SASCOC - SASCOC

Caster’s moment?

By Mark Etheridge

Wednesday dawned in Berlin, Germany with a very real chance of South Africa’s first IAAF World Track and Field Championship medal since 2003.

At just 18, powerful Caster Semenya looks to represent the future of SA athletics and seems almost a certainty for a medal in the women’s 800 metre final tonight.

Almost a certainty, because in the 800m a myriad factors such as a hot early pace, tiredness from the gruelling qualifying process, inexperience and nerves come into play making it a real lottery.

At face value Semenya has dealt with all of the above admirably to date but today will be her biggest test ever.

She went into the championships as the world’s fastest woman over the two-lapper after her 1min 56.72sec victory at the African junior championships in Mauritius a few weeks back and her form thus far in the championships has shown that race was certainly no once-off.

She’s coped with everything thrown at her, a near disastrous collision with world champion Janeth Jepkosgei in the first round before going on to beat the Kenyan in the semi-finals, and bounced back from painful ankle and foot injuries suffered in the clash.

She’s looked unfazed with whatever tactics used during the early races and seems to have the perfect combination of speed and endurance to cope with any eventuality. Her best bet would seem to be with a brisk early pace just to ensure there’s no nasty surprise from some of the big-kickers in the line-up.

What she hasn’t had to deal with though is the tangible pressure of lining up for a World Championship final in front of a full house of screaming spectators at the Olympic stadium. That may play on her nerves just a bit and it may be made worse by the fact that the final is the very last event of the day, going off at 9.35pm SA time.

Earlier Wednesday London-based Willem Coertzen gets the SA challenge going when he starts the punishing decathlon event. He’s in action in five events today and another five tomorrow. He’s broken the SA record on two occasions this year and all being equal should better it again on the world stage.

Also in action is sprinter Isabel Le Roux who tackles the 200-metre first round heats Wednesday evening.

She takes a season-best 23.11 into the final. The first three in each heat go through automatically to the semi-finals (no second round on this occasion) and next quickest six times of the heats join them. Her season best is only fourth quickest of her heat so there’ll be little time for complacency.

Tuesday night saw Ruben Ramolefi’s brave challenge end in the final of the 3,000m steeplechase. The little Gauteng athlete led through 1,000m but had nothing left at the death and could only hang on for a 3:32.54 finish, second from last, and way off his 8:11 personal best.

His coach Hans Saestad said shortly before the final that Ramolefi would take it out hard and hopefully hang in for a time of around 8.10 (which would be a personal best). Had he done so, he would have finished just outside the medals.

Another SA athlete who would have been doing some serious reflecting would have been 400m hurdler LJ Van Zyl who bombed in the semi-finals. The final was won by American Kerron Clement in 47.91sec. Hindsight is the perfect science but had Van Zyl equalled his best of 47.94 a few weeks back or even gone close he would have been on the podium because runner-up Javier Culson of Puerto Rico ran 48.09 and third-placed Bershawn Jackons (US) 48.23sec.

Van Zyl told Road to London, 2012 Wednesday: “I just lost focus during the race and tried to make up at the end but it just didn’t go to plan. I’m just going to have to focus on the 4x400m relays now.”