Semenya early Olympic 800 favorite after winning in Doha
DOHA, Qatar (AP) Caster Semenya made herself the early Olympic front-runner by easily winning the women's 800 meters in the Doha Diamond League meet on Friday.
Semenya decimated the field in a season-best 1 minute, 58.26 seconds, almost nine-tenths of a second better than second-place Habitam Alemu of Ethiopia, 1:59.14.
It was her second stand-out result to start the Olympic year, after announcing her ambition last month with an unprecedented hat trick of 400, 800, and 1,500 titles at the South African championships.
They were all the more remarkable because she's hardly featured since her 2012 Olympic silver medal. She still hasn't come close to the 1:55.56 she set in winning the 2009 worlds, when news leaked she would be subject to gender testing.
Semenya improved on her 800 time in Stellenbosch at Doha, and was delighted.
''I feel very good this year, I am focused on what I am doing,'' she said. ''My preparation has gone really well, but I can't say there have been many changes in my training or my attitude.''
Not so happy were Dafne Schippers, the world 200 champion, who was pipped in the 100 by American Tori Bowie, and the home favorite in the men's high jump, Mutaz Essa Barshim.
Barshim, who has jumped as high as 2.43 meters in setting the Asian record, could not do any better than 2.26, and was seventh in a competition won by American Erik Kynard at 2.33.
''It's all part of the plan. This being an Olympic year, I'm taking things slow,'' Barshim insisted. ''Last year, I peaked early, and by July I was practically dead. I'm not going to repeat that mistake.''
Bowie, the 100 bronze-medal winner at the worlds last year in Beijing, said: ''I gave the race my everything, and the win was mine. This being an Olympic year, I'm eagerly looking ahead at the outdoor season. I feel I'm a much better runner now than I was last season.''
The women's 3,000 featured two world champions in a fascinating duel. World champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia prevailed against world 10,000 champion Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya.
Ayana was pushed to clock a season-best 8:23.11. Cheruiyot was fourth.
The men's 200 was won by American Ameer Webb in a meet record of 19.85s. He was the only person to break 20 seconds. Teammate Lashawn Merritt won the 400.
Kenyans swept the 1,500 and 3,000 steeplechase. Asbel Kiprop led Elijah Motonei Manangoi and Silas Kiplagat to the podium in the 1,500 in 3:32.15, and Conseslus Kipruto won the steeplechase.
Jamaican Omar McLeod was fastest in the 110 hurdles, and American Christian Taylor won the triple jump at 17.23 meters.