CAPE TOWN – Caster Semenya showed her class by cruising through the first round of the 800m at the IAAF World Championships in London on Thursday night.
Semenya, running in the third heat of the event, hardly broke a sweat as she took up a position towards the back of the field for most of the first lap.
With a pedestrian pace being set upfront, Semenya opted to conserve her energy for Friday's semi-final, having come off an excellent campaign in the 1 500m, where she claimed a bronze medal.
On Thursday night, Semenya edged forward as the field completed the first lap, and was in third at the bell.
The 26-year-old maintained her speed, not exerting herself too much. But just when it looked like she would end third – which would still have seen her through to the semi-finals – Semenya quietly sped past to win in a comfortable 2:01.33.
“I just want to keep winning. That’s all I’m concentrating on. I’m feeling okay after the 1 500m, so I’m ready to go again,” Semenya was quoted as saying by AFP after the race.
She was followed by Cuba's Rosy Mary Almanza in 2:01.43, with Poland's Joanna Jozwik third with a time of 2:01.51.
And there was more good news for South Africa in the final 800m heat as Gena Lofstrand joined Semenya in the semi-finals.
Despite fading to seventh position, Lofstrand's relatively fast time of 2:01.73 – just outside her personal best of 2:01.50 – ensured she advanced as one of the "fastest losers".
Running in the same heat as Burundian star Francine Niyonsaba, Lofstrand's gamble of going straight to the front paid off.
She maintained the lead after the first lap, and even though Niyonsaba and others went past her, the 21-year-old South African kept going to make it into Friday night's semi-finals.
* This story has been updated.