Caster Semenya of South Africa won the women’s 800m final in a personal best time of 1:55.28, just two seconds shy of the world record, claiming her first Olympic gold.
Semenya had a strong run-up season to the Olympics, with three of the fastest four times belonging to her. Staying with the pack for the first lap, Semenya let Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba lead the race up to the 600 metre mark before pulling ahead with an injection of pace to take gold in Rio.
The South African, who won silver in London four years ago, praised the high quality competition: “The race was a little bit quick. The first 400m, we pushed ourselves. My coach told me to be patient and wait for the right moment. I used to be a sprinter so I run a good 100 metres. It’s just what I’m best at. The field was really good. It was fantastic to race with such great athletes.”
"To be honest, we’re really not focused on breaking the world record,” the Olympic champion added. "We are focused more on being the best we can be.” Niyonsaba finished in 1:56.49 to claim silver, Kenya’s Margaret Wambui won bronze in 1:56.89.
“I’m so happy.” Niyonsaba said after becoming only the second-ever Olympic medallist for Burundi. “It’s so hard to catch Caster. It is a honour for me and my country to make history. I’m an Olympic medallist, the first one for my country since 1996, so it’s an honour.”
Kenyan Wambui was happy to complete to podium: “I have lost to people a bit faster than me and I just feel happy to compete with the champions. I still have some work to do, especially when it comes to speed work and also endurance because I struggled in the last 100 metres.”
Semenya became the South African first woman in 64 years to win Olympic gold in athletics. She joined Esther Brand, who won gold in the women’s high jump in 1952, in a club of only two women to clinch an athletics gold for the country.