Caster Semenya of South Africa crosses the finish line ahead of Ekaterina Kostetskaya of Russia to win her women's 800 metres semi final (Getty Images) © Copyright
Report Daegu, Korea

Women's 800m - Semi-Finals - Semenya sets season’s best as she prepares for title defence

Caster Semenya the defending 800m champion sent out a loud and clear message to her rivals that she intends retaining her title when not only dominating her semi-final but she also posted the fastest time of the evening in the Daegu 2011 stadium.

The 20-year-old South African hasn't been quite the force she was since scoring a runaway win in Berlin two years ago but the speedy way she powered away from her rivals in the last of three highly competitive semis clearly indicated she has peaked perfectly.

Semenya after contentedly sitting in the pack and cruising when the bell was passed by Russia's Ekaterina Kostetskaya in 59.57 - the slowest split of the night - remained poised when the pace increased down the back straight.

With 200m to run she sped away from Jamaica's Kenia Sinclair and Kostetskaya and with an impressive turn of speed flashed down the final straight to win in a season's best 1:58.07.

Behind her Kostetskaya the 2004 World Junior gold medallist won the race to the line by 0.29 in 1:58.64 to make the final by right with Sinclair who blew up in the 2008 Olympic final when trying to mix it with the big names, going through as a fastest loser with a time of 1:58.93.

Despite Semenya's best race of the season it was World leader Mariya Savinova fifth in Berlin two years ago who again after an impressive heat suggested that she will be the woman to beat for the gold medal.

The Russian who has had a purple patch since that setback in particular winning last year's IAAF World Indoor title in Doha, was again a class of her own. The 26-year-old allowed 2007 champion Janeth Jepkosgei - who blazed through the first 400 in 56.53 - and USA trial winner Alysia Johnson Montano, to control the race.

That was until coming into the home straight she switched gears and sped ahead of the pair to win from the Kenyan by 0.05 in a very relaxed 1:548.45 with Montano also progressing with her time of 1:58.67.

Jenny Meadows admitted after winning her heat on Thursday that with the 800m producing such high quality runners she found it more nerve wracking qualifying than competing in the final.

The 2009 bronze medallist despite that admission was clearly on top of her form and after a 57.99 first circuit with Kenya's Eunice Jepkoech Sum at the front the British "pocket rocket" looked as if she was on schedule to make it through.

Coming first into the home straight she appeared to be going to have a safe run to the line even though Maggie Vessey runner up behind Johnson Montano at the US Championships was closing her down.

Both of them got the fright of their lives when the tall figure of Russia's Yuliya Rusanova this year's European Indoor bronze medallist, suddenly strode past them to win in 1:58.73. Vessey qualified for her first ever World final in 1:58.98 but Meadows clocking 1:59.07 failed to make the cut.

David Martin for the IAAF