Caster Semenya in action at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Photo: Tracey Nearmy/EPA

EUGENE, USA – Caster Semenya will be one of the favourites when she headlines a formidable 800m field at the Prefontaine Classic, the third stop of the 2018 IAAF Diamond League, in Eugene on May 26.

No one is more dominating at the moment than Semenya. The 27-year-old from South Africa has a 22-meet winning streak that stretches back to late 2015. 

In Rio she became the event’s first two-time Olympic gold medallist and last summer in London joined Maria Mutola as the only three-time world champion.

A two-time IAAF Diamond League winner, Semenya owns an impressive range of honours as she added a bronze in the 1 500m at London and last week lowered her national record to 4:00.71 as part of a successful Commonwealth Games golden double. 

Her 400m PB of 50.40 came in 2016 and last year she set the 600m world best of 1:21.77. Last year she also lowered her 800m best to 1:55.16 to move to No 6 on the all-time world list.

Semenya won last year’s Prefontaine Classic over a similarly loaded field.

She'll be joined by Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba. Last month she won a second successive world indoor 800m title and is at the moment Semenya's closest rival, finishing second behind her in both Rio and London. 

Niyonsaba was only 20 when she won the 2013 Prefontaine Classic with a still-standing Hayward Field record of 1:56.72, but first captured attention as a 19-year-old when she finished fifth at the 2012 London Olympics.

Ajee’ Wilson, who will turn 24 on May 8, will start for the first time in Eugene as the US record-holder. Last year she improved to 1:55.61 and went on to take bronze at the World Championships. 

Last month she finished second behind Niyonsaba at the World Indoor Championships.

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While that trio will rightly attract the most attention, Hayward Field fans will welcome the return of Raevyn Rogers, who capped her Oregon career in thrilling fashion last June and won The Bowerman Award as the nation’s top female collegian. 

An hour after winning her third NCAA outdoor 800m title, the 21-year-old took the baton on anchor leg for the Oregon 4x400m relay quartet. Oregon needed a victory to win the team title; Rogers delivered with a 49.77 split to cap off a collegiate record for good measure.

The field also includes 22-year-old Margaret Wambui, who finished just out of the medals in last year’s World Championships, but her bronze in Rio was Kenya’s first Olympic medal in this event since 2008, when Pamela Jelimo struck gold.

Habitam Alemu is the youngest in the field at 20. The Ethiopian record-holder was a semifinalist at both the Rio Olympics and London World Championships, and more recently finished fourth in Birmingham last month.

Two-time European champion Selina Buchel of Switzerland is also in the race. 

African News Agency (ANA)

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