JOHANNESBURG - Caster Semenya will be looking to win her second consecutive Diamond Trophy when she competes in Zurich this evening.
Although she has qualified to race in both the 800 and the 1500m IAAF Diamond League finals, she has opted out of the longer race which takes place tomorrow in Brussels. Semenya has not lost an 800m race since September 2015 when she finished eighth in Berlin.
The seven fastest woman over two laps will line up against each other tonight. It is one of the best 800m fields that could be assembled with all nine athletes boasting personal best times faster than one minute, 58 seconds, including three who have run sub-1:56 seconds in their careers.
Semenya goes into the race as the overwhelming favourite after clocking 1:54.25 at the Paris Diamond League meeting in July, which is the fourth fastest of all time. She became the first woman in history to dip below 50 seconds, two minutes, and four minutes in the 400, 800, and 1500 respectively when she won the one-lap sprint at the African Championships in a new South African record of 49.96 seconds.
The time still needs to be ratified and it appears the IAAF is not recognising some of the times from the championships, with her recent time of 50.06sec given as her 400m PB. Speaking at the pre-meeting press conference, Semenya said she was still undecided about whether she would double in the 400/800m or the 800/1500m at the next major championships.
“At the moment I am more focused on speed and if I would have to make a wise decision I would do the 400 and the 800,” she said. “I love both 400/800 and 800/1500 and I am still a confused kid trying to figure out where I belong. I’ve done all three events at the same championships before and you never know, I might go crazy and do all three in future.”
Long-jump phenomenon Luvo Manyonga will be looking to win his second consecutive Diamond Trophy and will tussle with compatriot Ruswahl Samaai tonight. Manyonga is top of the Diamond rankings list with Olympic gold medallist Jeff Henderson of the US second and Samaai third.
Cuban sensation Juan Miguel Echevarria, who is considered to be Manyonga’s biggest threat with a world lead of 8.68m, will not be participating in the final. National 100m record holder Akani Simbine will be the only South African competing for an overall title in the Brussels final tomorrow.
The African champion will be lining up against some of the fastest men this year, including American Ronnie Baker, who clocked a world lead 9.87sec last weekend. Seven of the eight finalists have gone sub-10sec this season.