Semenya slow in Sweden | SASCOC - SASCOC

Semenya slow in Sweden

By Mark Etheridge

Caster Semenya looked a pale shadow of the women who won the 800-metre world title two years ago as she finished second last at the DN Galan athletics meeting on Friday night.

Busy fine-tuning the defence of her title at next month’s IAAF World Athletics Championships in Daegu, South Korea, Semenya seemed to be stuck in a neutral gear as she clocked 2:01.28 in the Samsung Diamond League event.

That’s well off her season’s best of 1:58.61 set in Oslo last month and an awfully long way off the 1:55.45 that won her the world title in Berlin, Germany in 2009.

Semenya took up position at the rear of the field from the gun as Russian rabbit Tatyana Andrianova took the leaders through the field in 56.86sec. Jamaican Kenia Sinclair was in confident mood and went on to hit the front with 350m to run, take the win in a season’s best 1:58.21, and set herself up as one of the athletes to beat in Daegu.

Second and third were Morocco’s Malika Akkaoui and Cuban Yuneysi Santiusti in 1:59.75 and 2:00.06 respectively.

Worryingly there was no evidence of Semenya’s much-feared finishing power in the last 300m and she only moved up from last spot in the final straight. In fact her time would only have been good enough for fifth spot in the B race on Friday night.

“It’s very disappointing,” Semenya said in a later interview. “I don’t know what happened. It’s a little bit worrying. I should be running maybe under two minutes.

“I thought I was running faster so I was surprised I couldn’t go in front. I just have to stay positive. What else can I say?”

The Limpopo athlete will have another chance to find her form when she competes at the World University Games, also in the east, in Shenzhen, China next month.

Semenya was the only South African in action in Stockholm. SA 3000m steeplechase recordholder Ruben Ramolefi was on the starting lists earlier in the week but he had said last week that Monaco where he ran 8:12 was going to be his last race before World Championships.

One of the highlights of the meeting saw Usain Bolt win the 200m in his last race before World Championships.

Associated Press reports that even after complaining about a stiff back, an unusually tight bend and the windy conditions, Bolt still won in emphatic style.

The Jamaican star had lost over 100 meters in 2008 and 2010 at the Diamond League event, but the switch to 200 ÔÇô his preferred distance ÔÇô reversed his fortunes.

Bolt was never seriously troubled and cantered over the line in 20.03 seconds, well clear of Alonso Edward of Panama (20.47) and fellow Jamaican Ainsley Waugh (20.56).

Bolt may not be in the record-breaking form he showed in winning the 100 and 200 Olympic titles in 2008 and at the world championships a year later, but he showed Friday why he will still be the man to beat when the worlds begin on August 27.

“Technically it was not a good race because the curves here are a bit tight,” Bolt said. “I was careful not to get injured before the world championships. But generally, it was a good race despite the fact that I wanted a better time.”

Bolt said the tight bend at Stockholm’s Olympic Stadium, which was built to host the 1912 Games, had aggravated a long-standing back problem, but dismissed concerns it might affect him in Daegu. “My back is a little bit tight on the left side and I know that’s because of the curve,” Bolt said. “I’ll be OK, no worries.”

In the men’s 400, LaShawn Merritt made a solid return after his 21-month doping ban expired Wednesday. The world champion was in contention coming off the final bend but tied up in the home straight and was beaten into second by Jermaine Gonzales of Jamaica. “I missed competing, this is what I love the most,” Merritt said after finishing in 44.74 seconds.

Merritt tested positive for a banned substance found in a male-enhancement product. He has been cleared to run at the world championships, but his participation in next year’s London Olympics will be decided by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which is due to hear his case Aug. 17.

As expected, Carmelita Jeter of the United States won the women’s 100 ÔÇö but failed to take home one of the $10,000 diamonds given to competitors who break the stadium record.

Like Bolt, Jeter was slowed by the wind and her time of 11.15 wasn’t enough to beat the 1994 mark of 10.90 set by Irina Privalova.

World leader David Oliver was surprisingly beaten in the 110 hurdles by fellow American Jason Richardson. Oliver, the only man to go under 13 seconds this season, clattered four hurdles to upset his rhythm, allowing the much smoother Richardson to win in 13.17 seconds.

Andreas Thorkildsen of Norway was a popular winner in the men’s javelin, just a week after the bomb and shooting attacks in his home country.

Thorkildsen, the world championship favorite, threw a world-leading 88.43m with his second effort, and acknowledged the roar of approval by turning and bowing to the crowd. Mattias De Zordo of Germany was a distant second with a best of 84.37.

“It was nice to satisfy people after the terrible thing that happened in Norway,” Thorkildsen said.

Olympic champion and world record holder Yelena Isinbayeva won the women’s pole vault in her first appearance at a Diamond League event with a best effort of 4.76m.