2011 Women's 800m Semifinals: Caster Semenya Is Back, Maggie Vessey And Alysia Montano Make The Final

By LetsRun.com
September 2, 2011
Daegu, South Korea

Caster Semenya is back. The woman who dominated the 2009 World Championships and then had to sit out nearly a year while the IAAF determined whether she was actually allowed to compete in women's competitions dominated her semifinal heat of the 2011 World Championships. If the same Semenya shows up in the final, expect her to dominate and expect the gender-related questions to surface again. If Semenya does not dominate, the final should be super-competitive with everyone having a shot, including Americans Alysia Montano and Maggie Vessey, who both qualified. Recap and analysis of the semifinals below with athlete reaction.

Heat 1: Maggie Vessey Makes The Final

Heat 1 featured Russian champs runner-up (1:56.99) Yuliya Rusanova, who did not run well in round 1, 2009 bronze medallist Jenny Meadows of Britain and US hopeful Maggie Vessey.

Kenya's Eunice Sum took the early lead at 200 (26.93) as Vessey started out in last. At 400m (57.99), not much had changed, but Vessey started to go wide to try to move up.

The action got going around 600m (1:29.04), as Vessey moved up to challenge Rusanova for the lead. Jenny Meadows responded as well. When they hit the final straight, Rusanova was in the lead, Meadows in second and Vessey third. Rusanova looked a much different runner from one day previously, as she got the win in 1:58.73. Vessey managed to move up to pass Meadows before the line and finish second in 1:58.98 to book a ticket to her first World Championships final. Meadows, the bronze medallist in '09, would have to see if her time was good enough to get her in the final. It would not be.

Halima Hachlaf did not finish and we did not see why.

Maggie Vessey On Making Her First Final

QT1: Nice run by Vessey nearly equalling her season's best 1:58.86. With a little improvement in the final, a medal is not out of the question.

1 3 781 Yuliya Rusanova RUS 1:58.73 Q
2 4 984 Maggie Vessey USA 1:58.98 Q
3 6 396 Jennifer Meadows GBR 1:59.07
4 8 589 Eunice Jepkoech Sum KEN 1:59.94
5 2 257 Rosibel García COL 2:00.79 (SB)
6 1 873 Annet Negesa UGA 2:01.51
7 7 144 Maryna Arzamasava BLR 2:02.13
5 643 Halima Hachlaf MAR DNF

Heat 2: Mariya Savinova Bests Jespkosgei And Alysia Montano Makes The Final

Heat 2 featured the Russian champ and 2011 world leader, Mariya Savinova, 2007 world champ (and '08 and '09 silver medallist) Janeth Jepkosgei, and 2010 world leader and 2011 US Champ, Alysia Montano. Jepksogei took it out in 26.82 with Johnson in third and the Russian Savinova second to last.

Jepkosgei still had the lead at the bell and would open up a few meters lead on the backstretch, as Montano was second with 200m to go (1:27.67).

Montano closed the gap on Jepkosgei on the turn and Jepkosgei hit the final straight in first, Montano was second and Savinova was third. Savinova, however, was the best down the homestretch, as she passed Montano and Jepkosgei for the win in 1:58.45. Jepkosgei held on for a close second in 1:58.50 and Montano was close but third in 1:58.67. The American would advance to the final on time.

QT1: Jepkosgei and Savinova looked evenly matched in this one and Montano was only a few steps back. The final will be wide open.

Alysia Montano On Making The Final

QT2: Two Americans in the final of a global championships for the first time since 1988 when two Americans made the final at the Olympics and Kim Gallagher got bronze. (Obituary on Gallagher here, and message board thread here)

1 3 782 Mariya Savinova RUS 1:58.45 Q
2 5 569 Janeth Jepkosgei Busienei KEN 1:58.50 Q (SB)
3 4 955 Alysia Johnson Montano USA 1:58.67 q
4 6 886 Liliya Lobanova UKR 1:59.38
5 2 392 Emma Jackson GBR 1:59.77 (PB)
6 1 472 Tintu Luka IND 2:00.95 (SB)
7 8 827 Lucia Klocová SVK 2:01.85
8 7 102 Zahra Bouras ALG 2:12.08

Heat 3: Caster Semenya Crushes It

Caster Semenya is back. Photo via tracktownphoto.com

Heat 3 featured Caster Semenya, who has struggled in 2011, Jamaica's Kenia Sinclair, who has been the most consistent 800m runner of the year, with only one loss, Russia third placer Ekaterina Kostetskaya, and the USAs Alice Schmidt.

The frontrunning Sinclair took it out in 27.75 with Schmidt in 5th and Semenya biding her time in sixth. Sinclair and Kostetskaya shared the lead at 400 (59.57) with Semenya still in sixth.

On the backstretch, Alice Schmidt went wide and moved up to third. However, making the biggest move was Caster Semenya. She shot to the front at 600m (1:29.74) and looked like the dominant runner she was in 2009. Only Kostetskaya could respond.

It was no contest down the homestretch, as Semenya got the win in 1:58.07 (the fastest of the day). She was not challenged down the homestretch and looked like she could have gone faster if she had to. Kostetskaya held on for second while Kenia Sinclair got third. Sinclair would advance to the final on time.

QT1: Semenya was super-dominant going to the lead. It looked like 2009 all over again. When asked why she wouldn't talk to the media, she said, "I'm advised not to do interviews." When asked who advised her, she pointed at herself and left the area (see video below).

QT2: After a great year, Kenia Sinclair knows she has a chance in the final and is disappointed with her semifinal race. She describes her reasoning in the interview below (basically she didn't go out fast enough). She's trying to win Jamaica's first medal over 400m.

QT3: US veteran competitor Alice Schmidt didn't have a good reason for why she had no kick today, saying it "just wasn't my day."

Caster Semenya Only Gives A Few Words In The Mixed Zone 

Alice Schmidt On Not Making The Final

Kenia Sinclair After Making The Final

1 4 740 Caster Semenya RSA 1:58.07 Q (SB)
2 3 767 Ekaterina Kostetskaya RUS 1:58.64 Q
3 5 523 Kenia Sinclair JAM 1:58.93 q
4 1 351 Fantu Magiso ETH 1:59.17 (NR)
5 6 974 Alice Schmidt USA 2:01.16
6 2 580 Cherono Koech KEN 2:01.48
7 7 398 Marilyn Okoro GBR 2:01.54
8 8 885 Yuliya Krevsun UKR 2:05.37

Thoughts On The Final: If Semenya is back to 2009 form, everyone else is running for second and the IAAF will be faced with questions surrounding what exactly did Semenya do to deal with her gender issues. After Semenya, the final is wide open and not much separated the semifinalists, although Savinova looked good.


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