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Semenya Silver wraps up success

Semenya takes Silver

Semenya takes Silver

She saved the best for last. After an up and down season, Caster Semenya came oh so close to successfully defending her title. Only the speed of the Russian Champion, Mariya Savinova prevented her from becoming the first athlete to successfully defend her title since Maria Mutola did it in 2003.
Semenya showed she meant business when she ran the fastest qualification time for the finals, clocking 1:58.07 in the semi-finals on Friday 2 September.
Coming into the finals the field knew they had to take out the pace hard to prevent Semenya from dominating and it was the former champion, Janeth Jepkoskei Busienei from Kenyan who took the responsibility upon herself. The Kenyan took the field through 400m in 55.86sec – a fast pace. Semenya was 5th with Savinova staying on her shoulder. With 200m to go Semenya was perfectly poised to pounce and coming out of the final bed Semenya had taken charge. Savinova made her charge in the final 50m, closing the 3m lead Semenya had and then passed her for the fastest time of the year, clocking 1:55;87 to the 1:56;35 of Semenya who had the biggest grin on her face when she crossed the line. Third place went to Jepkoskei Busienei.

Semenya’s silver medal capped a good 9 days for team South Africa who returned with four medals, three national records and one African record. It also meant that South Africa jumped from 18th position on the points standing of 2009, to 13th.

Points are awarded to athletes who finish in the finals, with 8 going to the winner and 1 to 8th place. Two silver medals meant 14 points, two bronze medals meant 12 points, and the two 5th place finishes added another 8 points to get to 34. And it is the points table, more than the medals table that is important as it shows depth.

Speaking after the World Championships, ASA President James Evans was well pleased. “This is a young team. We did not Predict medals, but certainly had hoped for a few and these did come. What is very encouraging is that the 4x400m men squad is made up of youngsters who we can build on; Cornel Fredericks finished 5th in his first World Championships and so did Luvo Manyonga. And of course to end off with the silver of Caster after the last two years she has had, is tremendous. We said before the World Championships that these athletes would be the nucleus of the squad for 2012 and beyond, and they have rewarded our faith in them with a superb all round performance. The stalwarts of the team, LJ van Zyl and Sunette Viljoen, also came through with Bronze Medal winning performances. And they still have a number of years ahead of them and will get better and stronger. So the future looks good.”

Day 1 – 27 August
Rene Kalmer and Annerien van Skalkwyk ran in the marathon in hot and humid conditions. In only her third marathon, Kalmer finished 31st in 2:38;16 and van Skalkwyk 37th with a seasons best of 2:43;59.

Day 2 – 28 August
Oscar Pistorius ran his second best race ever, qualifying for the semi-finals of the 400m with a time of 45.36sec.

Day 3 – 29 August
The 400m hurdlers were in action and all three went through to the next round. No problems for Cornel Fredericks and LJ Van Zyl who finished second and first in their respective heats with times of 48.52sec and 48.58sec respectively.

But it was Wenda Theron who shone. In her first ever World Championships she ran a life time best of 56.13sec for third in her heat and get through to the semifinals.
Pistorius was not able to reproduce his performance of the previous day and bowed out of the men’s 400m in the semi-finals.

Ruben Ramolefi broke his own national 3000m steeplechase record in the heats with a time of 8:11;50 for second – booking his place in the final in the process.
Day 4 – 30 August
The 400m hurdlers were all in action on this day, with both LJ Van Zyl and Cornel Fredericks doing enough in their respective semi-final races to get into the final. Surprisingly it was young Fredericks who had the better race, clocking 48.83 for second in his semi to the 49.05 of van Zyl. Both finished second in their respective races, but the faster time meant that Fredericks had the better lane draw in the finals.
It was the end of the road though for Wenda Theron as she bowed out of the semi-finals.

Day 5 – 31 August
No South Africans in action in the 20km Walk

Day 6 – 1 September
Elroy Galant was eliminated in the heats of the men’s 5000m, but Sunette Viljoen easily qualified for the final of the Javelin with her opening throw of 65.34m.
Luvo Manyonga showed his potential when he made it through to the finals of the men’s long jump with a leap of 8.04m, but 2009 World Championship Silver Medalist, Khotso Mokoena’s 8m jump was not good enough to progress to the final.

Caster Semenya started her title defence with a comfortable win in her race of the 800m rounds.
And the men’s 4x400m relay squad broke the first of the three national records for South Africa at the World Championships when they ran 2:59;21 for third in round one of the 4x400m heats.

In the evening session, Ruben Ramolefi finished 13th in the men’s 3000m steeplechase.
The final event of the evening was the men’s 400m hurdles final. Cornel Fredericks lined up in lane 4, whilst LJ van Zyl was in the outside lane and effectively running blinds. Van Zyl was leading the race until he came into the home-straight when he clipped the 9 th hurdle and lost his stride pattern. He nevertheless held on to finish 3rd for the first medal for team South Africa. Van Zyl’s time was 48.80; Fredericks finished 5th in 49.12sec.

Day 7 – 2 September
Caster Semenya showed she was not to be written off in her quest of defending her 2009 World Championship title when she ran the fastest semi-final to book her place in the final. Semenya ran a seasons best of 1:58,07.

But the big news of day 7 was the Bronze Medal of Sunette Viljoen in the Javelin. The competition saw the best ever throws for 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Whilst eventual champion Maria Abakumova was having a battle of huge tussle with Barbora Spotakova, Viljoen was fighting for the Bronze with German Christina Obergfoell. Viljoen went into third place in the second round with a 65.20m throw, before the German overtook her in the 4th round with her 65.24m effort. Viljoen put the result beyond doubt with her South Africa and Africa record in the 5th round. The Javelin touching down at 68.38m – a personal best of almost 2m. Viljoen had thrown a new SA and Africa record of 66.47m in Shenzhen, China at the World Student Championships.

The evening was capped off with a tactically brilliant performance by the men’s 4x400m relay team who won the silver medal behind the USA.
Day 9 – 4 September

With no South Africans in action on day 8, all eyes turned to the final day of the competition where Caster Semenya showed she is by far a spent force with her silver medal effort.

A quick glance at the medal table and points table will show that South Africa, with minimal resources, ended higher up the rankings than countries such as Canada and France, both of whom have high tech and well financed High Performance Centre’s.

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