Women's Olympic 800 Meter Semi-Finals Update
Provided by IAAF
During 2016 Caster Semenya has stood head and shoulders above her rivals over two laps of the track and once more she served notice that she will be the women to beat after an ominously impressive semi-final display.
Running in the third semi-final, the South African was content to sit behind a rapid pace set by reigning world champion Marina Arzamasova from Belarus before unleashing her powerful kick to post the fastest qualification time in 1:58.15.
The two favoured athletes also delivered in the first semi-final as both Margaret Wambui of Kenya and Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi banked the two automatic qualification spots for Saturday’s final.
The 21-year-old Ugandan Halimah Nakaayi took the early pace but by the bell Niyonsaba, the IAAF World Indoor Championships Portland 2016 winner, had moved to the head of the field passing 400m in 59.30 followed by USA’s Ajee’ Wilson, Nakaayi and Wambui.
Down the back straight the tall and powerfully-built Wambui, the world Indoor bronze medallist, started to take a much closer order before she swept past Niyonsaba to win the first semi-final in 1.59.21 with what appeared to be plenty to spare by 0.38 from her rival.
Behind the leading pair, Wilson grabbed third in 1:59.75 and Ukraine’s European champion Natalia Pryshchepa crossed the line fourth in 1:59.95 but neither produced a time quick enough to advance to the final.
Poland’s Joanna Jozwik was a slightly unexpected winner of a topsy-turvy second semi-final which saw the elimination of 2013 world champion Eunice Sum of Kenya.
It was Sum who took the early pace, although she was quickly dislodged from the lead by Habitam Alemu of Ethiopia.
At the bell, it was Alemu – covering the first lap in a swift 57.65 - followed by Sum from Melissa Bishop, Canada’s 2015 world championships silver medallist and Natalia Lupu of Ukraine.
With the field all still heavily bunched at 600 metres it was Alemu from Lupu, although Sum was starting to lose her position and started to slip back alarmingly.
The final 100 metres saw places change at a dizzying pace.
With Sum and then Alemu dropping out the picture, it was Bishop who took control only for a scintillating late charge from Jozwik, the 2014 European bronze medallist, delivering an unlikely win in a season’s best of 1:58.93 by 0.12 from Bishop, the second automatic qualifier.
Selina Buchel of Switzerland placed third in 1:59.35, 0.06 clear of Sweden’s Lovisa Lindh, who followed up her PB in the heats with another lifetime best in the semi-final.
Great Britain’s Shelayna Oskan-Clarke, a 2015 world championships finalist, placed fifth in 1:59.45. Alemu having led for a large chunk of the race, faded to sixth in 2:00.07 with Sum a distant and disconsolate seventh.
In the third and final semi-final, Arzamasova adopted an aggressive attitude to lead from the front and hit the bell in 57.65, followed by Great Britain’s Lynsey Sharp, Noelie Yarigo, who had set a Benin record in the heats, and Semenya.
The South African effortlessly moved into third with 200 metres remaining before kicking past the field down the home stretch to take the win in 1:58.15 by exactly half-a=second from Sharp, who produced an assured display to get the second automatic place.
On the inside, USA’s Kate Grace finished strongly to take third in a new lifetime best of 1:58.79, her second PB of the competition. Arzamasova was rewarded for her commitment with fourth in 1:58.87, and both she and Grace advanced to the final on time.
Steve Landells for the IAAF