17 AUGUST 2016
Semenya takes it all in her stride
By Mark Etheridge
It was just after 11 o’clock on Wednesday in the Olympic Stadium. As has become a familiar sight in Rio, the morning’s programme was sparsely attended. But, those in the stadium were witnessing probably the most anticipated athletics heat in the history of the Olympic Games.
Caster Semenya had arrived in Rio five days early but had been keeping a low profile in the athletes’ village, away from the media scrums that wanted to feast on her. Another way to put it was she was focusing on what lay ahead: the track, not the circus.
The South African’s inclusion at the 2016 Games had dominated the build-up, with questions being raised as to whether she should be allowed to compete given the complicated status of her gender. The short answer is the important one, for now. It’s ‘yes’. She had been cleared by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to run as a woman. Case closed, until it is re-opened. Semenya is the overwhelming favourite to win the 800m gold medal when the final
is run on Sunday. It might even go down as her second Olympic gold, despite taking the silver in the same event at London 2012. Last November the World Anti-Doping Agency recommended that gold medallist Mariya Savinova of Russia be suspended for doping violations. This could yet see Semenya upgraded from silver.
Now 25, Semenya looks at peace with the world, and more importantly with herself and those who are close to her. Gone is the inner rage and hostility that consumed her in the wake of her despicable treatment following the 2009 World Championships where she won gold.
Tired Marcia is hungry for more after Olympic debut
By Mark Etheridge
Stefano Marcia knew his Olympic Games debut was going to be tough… but not just how tough. ‘Wow it was tough,’ he exclaimed after his Laser class sailing competition came to a close with him not making the final cut for the medal regatta. He ended 40th overall from 46 boats and says it was sheer lack of experience that took it’s toll. ‘I think there were only about eight Olympic debutants and most of the others have at least two Olympics under their belt!’
He had opened his account with a 30th and 25th spot on opening day but then drifted dog course, figuratively, and was unable to get back to that form. ‘It’s incredibly hard to get consistent results, the weather changes constantly and I think you just have to have an incredibly all-round game here.
‘I prefer winds between 12-14 knots and flat water and am more used to that. This week we had a cold front coming through and there were 3-4 metre swells – on our small boats that looks like a block of flats coming straight at you!’
But there were encouraging signs for Marcia. ‘I led briefly on the first day and then again in one of the later races. But it just takes the finest mistake and suddenly like 19-20 boats go past you.’
How Team SA fared on Wednesday
Here is a list of those South Africans in Olympics action on Wednesday. All times are Rio local and in brackets is SA time, +5 hours).
Women’s 800m, heat 2: Caster Semenya won her heat in 1:59.31 to progress to Friday’s semi-finals
In a nutshell: This was probably the most anticipated heat in Olympic history and Semenya did what was required when she came from off the pace to ease through in 1:59.31. That was a full 1.40 seconds quicker than when she started her London 2012 campaign. Semenya looked relaxed and in cruise control throughout after the bell had rung at 58.23, before she kicked for home and past her rivals with 200m to go.
Men’s Decathlon, 100m, heat 2: Willem Coertzen finished seventh in his heat in 11.02sec. His morning didn’t get off to the best of starts, finishing seventh in his heat in this most gruelling of all-round events. His time left him 24th out of 32 competitors overall, on 834 points, some 189 behind leader Damian Warner.
Men’s Decathlon, Long Jump: Coertzen produced a leap of 6.98m to place 11th in the long jump competition. The leap gave him 809 points, for a total of 1643 after two events. That left him in 27th place overall, as odds-on favourite Ashton Eaton moved to the top of the standings.
Men’s Decathlon, Shot Put: Coertzen recorded a season’s best 14.00 metres as he placed 11th in the discipline. It earned him 728 points and moved him up one place to 36th overall after three events, with 2 371 points. Eaton continued to lead with 2 803 points.
Men’s 5 000m, heat 2: Elroy Galant finished seventh in his heat, the faster of the two on the morning, and qualified for the final. His time was 13:22.0.
What he said: ‘I knew the it would be tough to get into the final. For sure, the guys weren’t going to take it out and I trusted my training and going out at 64sec a lap and to get to an 8km 3000. I knew the guys would catch me but also knew I had to go with them and I think my strategy worked. The final will be different ball game … tactical and probably a kick with 800/kay to go. It felt like Phalaborwa back home out there, really hot, and I think it caught me at the end but that’s OK.
Strategy is to be with those guys with a kay to go and stay in the top 4-5. I showed I can do it today now my mind must be that bit stronger and get a medalling mentality. It’s like a chess game… you have to move when the big guys move. Anything is possible in the final and I’ll take motivation from Wayde and let that stay in my head lap after lap. I need to be top five throughout and that’s my strategy.’
Women’s Kayak K1, 500m, heat 2: London 2012 bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley finished third in her heat in 1:55.737 and qualified comfortably for the semi-finals.
In a nutshell: Hungary’s Danuta Kozak led from start to finish as she and Maryna Litvinchuk of Belarus took a stranglehold on the field. Hartley showed some early competition with the boat bouncing a bit too much for comfort in the early stages out of the starting blocks. But she was content to bide her time and after going through 250m (halfway) in 57.50 in fourth place, got everything under control and also got into her stroke in the second half of the race. She did what she had to do to qualify for the semi-final with the first six finishers going through automatically.
As she re-focused for that semi-final, manager Craig Mustard was a busy man as he made sure the bright green racing machine was free of water drops and in pristine condition, just the way the 2012 Olympic bronze medallist in this event likes it!
Women’s Kayak K1, 500m, Semi-final 3: Hartley went off in the third lane of the third and last semi-final. The first two finishers in each semi went through automatically to the final, joined by the next two third-fastest boats. It was another slow start from Hartley and although she was closing fast at the finish she ended fifth of seven boats, 1.882sec behind winner Franziska Weber of Germany and into the B Final but not the coveted A Final and a medal chance. ME
Women’s first round: Paula Reto teed off in the third group of the morning, alongside Nicole Larsen or Denmark and In Gee Kun of Korea. She finished on three-over par 74 after being one-under at a stage.
Women’s first round: Ashleigh Simon teed off in a group that also included Harukyo Nomura of Japan and Pernilla Lindberg of Sweden. She was four over par after eight holes and that’s where she stayed, signing for a 75.
Men’s Seeding Run: Kyle Dodd ended 26th in the run +1.837sec behind leader Joris Daudet of France.
What he said: ‘Seeing the track was something I haven’t seen before. Besides the different colours which was definitely something new. The track looked so fun and fast. Once I got out there and got a few laps in I felt more comfortable each lap. What was nice is that we had multiple days and a lot of track time to get the track dialled in so there was no rush at all. The time trial was unbelievable, the vibe in the stadium, the crowd and most of all the support back home was insane – I still front of my family on the biggest stage in the world. It was something unreal and I’m so glad they good that they share that moment with m. My goal is the top 16 so we shall push for that, when I get there anything can happen.’