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Quicker Caster ends 3rd

By Mark Etheridge

Caster Semenya continued to go quicker and quicker in her comeback but the reigning world 800-metre champion tasted defeat at Friday night’s final IAAF Diamond League meeting in Brussels, Belgium.

Cleared by the IAAF on July 6 to compete again after almost a year in the wilderness due to gender speculation, Semenya finished third in a time of 1min 59.65sec.

That was a season’s best for her in her fourth race since her return. She ran 2:04 and 2:02 in two low-key races in Finland before winning last Sunday’s two-lapper at the ISTAF meeting in Berlin where she clocked 1:59.90 to dip under the two-minute barrier for the first time since her 1:55.45 victory at last year’s world championships in Berlin, Germany.

But if anything Semenya looked some way off the absolutely unbeatable athlete that some of her opponents labelled her as earlier this week.

Starting from lane eight, the 19-year-old Limpopo athlete looked uncharacteristically sluggish and indeed, was stone last after 250m.

The first lap went by in 56.12sec and still Semenya was barely in the mix. The 600m mark went by in 1:28.05 but it was only in the final straight that she started making inroads. She still produced a strong finish, passing two athletes in the last 60m but it was nothing like the imperious finish we’ve come to expect.

Winner was Kenya’s Janeth Jepkosgei in 1:58.82 and Mariya Savinova of Russia took the runners-up spot in 1:59.49. The world’s quickest two-lapper this year, Alysia Johson of America, was fourth in 1:59.89.

The only other South African in action on Friday was former SA champion Johan Cronje in the 1500m. Cronje, still on the comeback trail after a lengthy spell on the sidelines with injury, looked to be doing pacemaking duties though as was third in the early stages and after the bell for the final lap rang at 2min 37sec, stepped off the track and failed to finish.

Olympic champion Asbel Kiprop took line honours, the Kenyan winning in 3min 32.18sec from the ever-improving American Leonel Manzano (3:32.37).

Meanwhile, new world 800m recordholder David Rudisha won the men’s two-lapper in 1:43.50, winning in style as he toyed with the field and ran off with the Diamond League trophy in his event. And Tyson Gay won the men’s 100m in an impressive 9.79sec after archrivals Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell had succumbed to injury earlier in the season.

The Diamond League resumes with the the 2011 season in Doha next May.


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