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Stiff test for Semenya

World 800-metre champion Caster Semenya is part of another batch of South African athletes will be in action at Saturday’s IAAF Samsung Diamond League track and field meeting in Eugene, Oregon.

The Prefontaine Classic is the fourth of 14 Diamond League meetings and the latest count of South Africans lining up is five, writes Mark Etheridge.

Most of the eyes will be on Semenya as she continues to chart her way back to the form that won her that title in Berlin two years ago. Cleared to run by the IAAF in July last year after a lengthy gender investigation, Semenya is still a long way off her best.

She’s been struggling with a lower back injury for a few months now but the 2min 00.61sec she ran to win an international meeting in Dakar, Senegal last weekend was her best of the season thus far.

That was 0.10sec quicker than her previous best of the year and she comes up against one of the strongest fields she’s had to contend with in a long while.

Nine of her competitors on Saturday night have already gone under 2min. But that fact won’t be something that Semenya will shy away from, she’s always up for a fight.

Semenya’s best this season puts her 13th on the 2011 rankings. Among her rivals on Saturday night are 2008 Olympic champion Pamela Jelimo and silver medallist Janeth Jekosgei. Jemilo, in fact, is quickest with a┬á personal best of 1:54.01.

Fastest over the two-lapper this year is Jamaica’s Kenia Sinclair with a 1:58.41 run in Jamaica last month.

Another SA athlete who always has eyes on him is Paralympic ace Oscar Pistorius. The Bladerunner is still attempting to qualify for next year’s able-bodied Olympics in London and has to run a minimum of 45.70, the B-qualifying standard.

He recently ran 46.19sec in Rome, with his personal best pegged at┬á 45.61sec which he ran in Pretoria earlier this year. On Saturday he’ll line up against 2004 Olympic gold medallist┬á and 2008 silver medallist Jeremy Wariner. He’s the only man in the field to have dipped under the 45sec mark.

Beijing Olympics long jump silver medallist, Khotso Mokoena opens his international season in Eugene, his best leap of the year thus far having been the 8.17m he jumped in Germiston in March.

Then there’s Ruben Ramolefi who resumes his battle with the all-conquering Kenyans in the steeplechase. Mind you Ramolefi, a finalist in Beijing three years ago, has showed good early season form and his 8:14.06 he ran at national champs in Durban has only been bettered on nine occasions this year.

The only field athlete in action is Sunette Viljoen in the javelin. The reigning Commonwealth champion has looked solid in early-season competition. She got the burden of World Championships qualifying off her shoulders in Ostrava, Czech Republic earlier this week with her 61.72 — 72cm further than the A qualifying mark.


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