Medal for LJ; Caster on course
LOUIS "LJ" van Zyl claimed South Africa's first medal at the World Championships in South Korea yesterday as Caster Semenya cruised to the 800m semifinals.
National record holder Van Zyl finished third in the 400m hurdles in a time of 48.80, while compatriot Cornel Fredericks, a future star, came fifth in 49.12.
Semenya, meanwhile, has described her qualification for today's semifinal as a clear message about her plan to retain her title.
"I hope I will silence people who have been saying all sorts of bad things about me, including being overweight," Semenya said.
The 20-year-old South African queen of athletics cruised to second position despite being credited with the same time as Russia's heat winner Mariya Savinova, clocking 2:01.01.
"This was a tough race and I had a problem because it was clear to me that other athletes (during the race) were targeting me. They tried every possible trick to block me from passing them," she said.
"The support I have been getting from the people back home has been overwhelming and I want to assure that I'm here to make them happy.
"This title belongs to Madiba and South Africa. I'm well prepared for the semifinals and final. I want to win the 800m world title to prepare for the 2012 London Olympics."
The final will be run on Sunday.
Semenya's manager Percy Mphaho said: "This was a great performance by Caster. People must understand that Caster is no longer a 17-year-old girl and has improved."
While Semenya is through to the semifinals, Khotso Mokoena was eliminated in the first round of the long jump yesterday.
Mokoena had promised South Africans gold from this event. "I did my utmost best to win but I failed," said the likeable Mokoena. "I want to apologise for the failure to win a medal."
But there was good news for compatriot Luvo Manyonga, who qualified for today's final.
Sunette Viljoen qualified for today's javelin final with a throw of 65.34m, while Justine Robbeson finished 10th in her qualifying group with a best throw of 58.08m.
Another South African who fared dismally yesterday was Ruben Ramolefi who ended 13th in the 3000m steeplechase in a time of 8:30.47. On Sunday, the South African men's marathon team of Lucky Mohale, Coolboy Ngamole and David Ngakane will be in action as the curtain falls on the championships.