Caster Semenya powers through 800m final to win gold

21 August 2016 - 04:20 By DAVID ISAACSON, TimesLIVE

Caster Semenya stormed to victory in the women’s 800m at the Rio Olympics by more than a second on Saturday night.

Caster Semenya holds the South African flag as she celebrates winning the Women's 800m Final during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 20, 2016.
Caster Semenya holds the South African flag as she celebrates winning the Women's 800m Final during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 20, 2016.
Image: PEDRO UGARTE / AFP

Semenya, who improved her national record to 1min 55.28sec, controlled the race from the start, and apart from Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi attacking on the back straight, the South African track star never looked in danger of losing this one. 

She put her foot down on the final bend, reclaiming her lead and then stretching it on the home straight. 

Niyonsaba was second in 1:56.49 and Kenya’s Margaret Wambui beat Canadian Melissa Bishop in a sprint for third spot, crossing the line in 1:56.89. 

Semenya, the 2009 world champion, won the silver at London 2012, becoming the first SA athlete since 110m hurdler Sid Atkinson in 1928 to upgrade a silver to gold four years later. 

Her gold on Saturday was Team South Africa’s second gold of the Games, and their 10th medal overall, which matches the country’s best returns from 1952 and 1920.  

If the Rio haul stays the same by the closing ceremony on Sunday night, this will officially be SA’s second-best Olympic performance of all time, ranking only behind the 1920 outfit that won three golds among their 10 gongs at Antwerp 96 years ago.​

Semenya has been plagued by a nearly constant debate over whether or not she should be allowed to compete in the woman's 800m since she burst onto the scene winning gold at the 2009 World Championships. She has also received a fierce outpouring of support from South Africans, including celebrities and politicians.

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The runner took to social media on Friday after securing her spot in the women's 800m finals to acknowledge her supporters.

“Technically athletics is an individual sport‚ but to get to the top, an individual needs a team. You guys are my team‚ your love and support has carried me this far‚" the athlete shared on Facebook.

South Africa's other medalists include:

Gold: World record-breaking Wayde van Niekerk clinched gold in the men's 400m

Silver: Sunette Viljoen secured second place place in the women's javelin throw while in swimming Chad le Clos came second in the men's 100m butterfly and 200m freestyle and Cameron van der Burgh finished second in the men's 100m breaststroke. Lawrence Brittain and Shaun Keeling secured silver in the men's rowing pairs while the the talented Luvo Manyonga took silver in the men's long jump.

Bronze: The Blitzbokke settled for third place in the men's rugby sevens and an elated Henri Schoeman secured bronze in the men's triathlon.

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