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Semenya maintains Olympic tradition

Caster Semenya - London 2012

Caster Semenya – London 2012

Monday, 13 August 2012 – Caster Semenya continued the tradition of athletics being the one sport to win a medal at each of the Olympic Games since re-admission, when she finished second in the women’s 800m on Saturday. No other sporting code in South Africa has been able to achieve this milestone.

Semenya slipped to the back of the field from early on in the race and left her finishing kick too late.  She could not catch the Russian World Champion, Mariya Savinova.  Savinova won the race in 1:56.19 with Semenya sprinting over the line in a season best time of 1:57.23.  Ekaterina Poistogova (RUS) beat the Kenyan world leader, Pamela Jelimo, taking the bronze medal in 1:57.53.

“I knew I had a better kick but, unfortunately, I made a late move.  I am very happy with the silver medal,” said Semenya, now aiming for a gold medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

New record for Mundell

Marc Mundell competed in the men’s 50km race walk, the sole competitor from Africa for this event, and improved his South African and Africa record.

“The key was starting slow and building throughout the race, keeping a very constant pace and aiming for something close to 3:55:00,” said Mundell.  He finished the race in 3:55:32 (32nd), improving on the 3:57:57 record he set up at the World Race Walking Cup in Saransk, Russia on 13 May.

Other performances and finals

The South African relay team did not finish the race in the heats of the 4x400m relay after Kenya committed obstruction and Ofentse Mogawane was tripped.  The team was reinstated as a ninth team in the final after a successful appeal.  The South African team, consisting of Shaun de Jager, Willem de Beer, LJ van Zyl and Oscar Pistorius, then finished eighth in a season’s best time of 3:03.46.  The Bahamas won the race in in 2:56.72, ahead of USA, who clocked 2:57.05.

In her first Olympic final, Sunette Viljoen finished fourth in the women’s javelin throw after German athlete, Linda Stahl, pushed her out of the bronze medal position in the fourth round.  Viljoen’s opening throw of 64.53m remained her best, but Stahl produced 64.91m.  Barbora Spotakova (CZE) won the event with 69.55m and also reclaimed the world number one spot from the South African javelin thrower.

Almost two months ago, Anaso Jobodwana made it his aim to run in the semi-final at the Olympic Games.  He however ran in the final of the men’s 200m against a strong line-up, including the Jamaican trio of Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Warren Weir.  Jobodwana has only ever competed in one major championship when he travelled to Benin for the African Championships at the end of June.  The 20 year-old could not repeat his brilliant semi-final performance (personal best of 20.27sec) and crossed the line in eighth place in 20.69sec, with Bolt sprinting to victory in 19.32sec.

Lehann Fourie ran a personal best of 13.28sec in the semi-final of the men’s 110m hurdles, but unfortunately clipped most of the hurdles in the final, finishing eighth in 13.53sec.

Khotso Mokoena finished eighth in the final of the men’s long jump with a best jump of 7.93m.

Andre Olivier qualified for the semi-final of the 800m, where he narrowly missed qualification when he finished fifth, clocking 1:45.44.  Cornel Fredericks (as well as LJ van Zyl) did not proceed past the first round of the men’s 400m hurdles after injuring his hamstring early in the race. Fredericks’ coach also passed away a few weeks before the Games.  Van Zyl competed in the final of the 4x400m relay after Mogawane dislocated his shoulder in the heats.

Willem Coertzen finished ninth overall in the men’s decathlon with a total of 8173 points, just shy of his own South African record of 8244 points set up in Port Elizabeth on 14 April.

In total the track & field component of the team contested 11 events, winning a silver medal, with another 5 finalists, two semi-finalists and a top 10 finish in the decathlon.

Rene Kalmer achieved the best result for the South Africans in the women’s marathon with a 35th place finish.  Her time of 2:30:51 was just shy of her personal best time (2:59.59 in Yokahama on 20 November 2011).  Lusapho April finished 43rd in men’s race, with a time of 2:19:00.

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