It was just a heat, but the eyes of the world were on the athletics track at the Olympic Stadium in Rio on Wednesday morning.
Caster Semenya took it all in her stride and did the job. Her winning heat time of 1:59.31 in the 800m safely saw her through to Thursday’s semifinals as the sixth fastest on the day.
“It was not easy. It’s extremely hot outside. I was just trying to hang on, trying to feel my body first so I can feel comfortable,” she said after the race.
“So I just tried to get in the top two in the last 200 and tried to maybe win so that I could be safe for the semifinals.”
Asked about the possibility of breaking Russain Nadezhda Olizarenko world record of 1:53.43 that has stood since 1980 – something which many predict Semenya could do given her form – the 25-year-old Potch-based runner added: “I’m not really focusing on records. Times don’t matter in a championship – what matters is a gold medal, silver or bronze.
“There’s a title so we’re not going to worry about times at the moment. I’m just trying to run my own race so I can do better and so far I’m good.”
Meanwhile, SA’s other athlete in action on Wednesday, Elroy Gelant, also enjoyed a successful heat. He ran the 5 000m in 13 minutes 22.00 to book a spot in Saturday morning’s final.
Paul Kipkemoi Chelimo was quickest in a personal best time of 13:19.54, with Gelant’s time the seventh fastest of the day.
“I faded a little at the end but I think my strategy worked to get into the final – that was the main goal,” said Gelant after going out hard to take the lead at one stage in the race.
“I think going to the final on Saturday is going to be a different ball game again – very tactical with the last kick with 1 000 or 800 to go. Today was very hot and challenging to go out alone but I hung on,” he added.
“I just trusted in the training. I’ve been training for this – and it’s mission completed for the final.”
Speaking about Saturday’s final, Gelant added: “The strategy will be to be up there with those guys with 1 000 to go – top four, five – you can’t be in 10th place unless you’re (defending Olympic champion) Mo Farah, and to kick when they kick.
“It’s like a chess game – you have to move when the big guys move so it’s difficult but anything is possible in the final,” he added.-Supersport