Semenya set for first 800m outing of year

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Former world champion Caster Semenya is set to run her first 800 metre race of the Olympic year at a meet in northern South Africa tomorrow.

Semenya, who won silver defending her title at last year’s world championships in South Korea, is listed to compete in the 800 at Potchefstroom having run just once competitively in 2012 – when she won a 400m race on 3 March. It also will be Semenya’s first two-lap race under new coach and former Olympic champion Maria Mutola.

LJ van Zyl will compete in the men’s 400 hurdles, the event he won bronze in at the 2011 worlds.

The pair are South Africa’s best hopes for track medals at the London Games, which will be the first Olympics for the 21-year-old Semenya if she makes the team as expected.

Semenya has had a tumultuous three years since she won the world title as a little-known teenager in Berlin in 2009. She underwent gender tests and didn’t compete for 11 months.

She struggled last year with a persistent lower back injury and fell out with former coach Michael Seme just before the 2011 worlds, where she finished second to Mariya Savinova of Russia.

Sunette Viljoen, the South African who won bronze in the women’s javelin at the worlds, will also compete tomorrow. Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, a former world champion and 2004 Olympic silver medallist, will run in the men’s 800.

South Africa are targeting 12 medals at the London Games after only winning one silver, in the men’s long jump, in Beijing four years ago. That was the country’s worst Olympic performance since their return at Barcelona in 1992 following the end of apartheid.

Meanwhile, London 2012 triathlon gold medal favourite Alistair Brownlee is confident there is sufficient time to fully recover from his torn Achilles injury before the Olympics.

The world’s top triathlete has resumed light training after sustaining the damage to his left ankle at the end of February.

Brownlee has now developed a more positive outlook on the injury and believes he will be ready for 7 August when the event is staged. “I’ve been better. If you’d asked me about my fitness three weeks ago it would have been very negative answer,” the 23-year-old said.

“It’s looking better now and I’ve been out of the cast for two to three weeks.

“I’m slowly doing more training and in two to three week weeks I should be up to a decent level of training and on the way back to fitness. If you want to put a positive spin on it, then it has given me a rest now. But I don’t believe in that positive spin.

“It would have been better if it hadn’t happened, but it has and I have to get on with that.

“I put all my emphasis on getting better rather than training.

“The important thing is to get 100 per cent fit and then crack on with training. I’ve still got a fair few months to get fit.”