Athletics: Semenya lays down marker for Rio with easy 800m win

Caster Semenya's 1min 56.64sec in the women's 800m at the Diamond League meet in Rabat, Morocco on Sunday is the world's best time this year.
Caster Semenya's 1min 56.64sec in the women's 800m at the Diamond League meet in Rabat, Morocco on Sunday is the world's best time this year. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

RABAT • Caster Semenya continued her impressive build-up to the Aug 5-21 Olympics with a comfortable win in the women's 800m as Africa hosted its first-ever Diamond League track and field meet on Sunday.

The victory marked the South African - who had to undergo gender testing before being cleared to compete as a woman after winning the world title in 2009 - as a strong favourite for gold in Rio.

The 25-year-old powered through a strong field that included two other former world champions, loping to victory after easing ahead of the rest down the final straight before finishing in 1min 56.64sec.

It was the best time of the year and a second successive Diamond League win this year for Semenya, who also has plans to run the 400m in Brazil.

Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia and Kenyan Conseslus Kipruto also produced impressive winning performances for the continent in front of an enthusiastic crowd of some 22,000 in the Moroccan capital.

World champion Ayana had her eyes on the world record in the women's 5000m but did not have enough pace-making to help her bid and finished in 14:16.31 - the third fastest of all time in the event.

Kipruto had time to wave to the crowd down the final straight as he jogged the final metres to victory in the men's 3000m steeplechase as Kenyan athletes filled the first four places.

His time of 8:02.77 was the best of the year - and the fastest ever recorded on African soil.

Having finished second at last year's World Championships in Beijing, he laid down an early marker for the Summer Games as he easily beat key rival Jairus Birech.

Frenchman Pierre-Ambrose Bosse kicked effectively around the bend to produce an upset triumph in the 800m over a field that included former Olympic 1,500m champion Taoufik Makhloufi and Olympic silver medallist Nijel Amos of Botswana, who finished a disappointing sixth in his first outdoor meet of the year.

Valerie Adams of New Zealand, who will be chasing a historic hat-trick of golds in Rio, began her Diamond League season with an easy victory in the shot put.

Her throw of 19.68m was a season's best after she returned to competition in February.

Colombia's two-time world champion Caterine Ibarguen stretched her winning streak to 33 competitions as she beat rival Yulimar Rojas of Venezuela in the triple jump.

The Diamond League moves to Eugene in the United States for the next meet on Saturday.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2016, with the headline 'Semenya lays down marker for Rio with easy 800m win'. Print Edition | Subscribe