(Reuters) – South Africa’s Caster Semenya coasted to victory in the 800 meters at the Monaco Diamond League in a world leading and personal best time on Friday to underline her status as a heavy favorite for next month’s Rio Olympics.
On a subdued evening in Monaco following Thursday’s Bastille Day attack in nearby Nice, Dutch woman Dafne Schippers won the women’s 100m while there was a surprise triumph in the men’s 1500m as Kenya’s Ronald Kwemoi beat Olympic champions Taoufik Makhloufi, Mo Farah and Asbel Kiprop.
There had been doubts as to whether the meeting would take place after a gunman at the wheel of a heavy truck plowed into a crowd celebrating France’s national day in Nice, killing at least 84 people.
A decision was made for the event to go ahead although a statement earlier on Thursday said the program would be kept “strictly to the sporting events with no festivities”.
Semenya streaked away to finish in 1:55.33, more than a second ahead of her previous world leading time of 1:56.64.
Semenya, who had to undergo gender testing before being cleared to compete as a woman after winning the world championship in 2009, powered away on the home straight to shave 12 hundredths of a second off her personal best.
World indoor champion Francine Niyonsaba trailed in second, with Kenya’s Jepkoech Eunice in third.
“I was expecting to run under 1:56,” Semenya said, before adding that she was looking forward to winning gold in Rio. “You have to believe in yourself and that’s what I did today.”
Schippers, the heptathlete-turned-sprinter, claimed a dominant win in the 100m, crossing the line in 10.94 seconds, a long way clear of Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown (11.12) and South Africa’s Carina Horn (11.14).
“I feel in shape, the race was fine, but the last 20 meters were harder, I could feel it,” said Schippers, the world 200 meters champion.
Kenya’s former Olympic and three times world champion Asbel Kiprop was beaten into sixth place in a fast-paced 1500 meters that was won by his 20-year-old compatriot Kwemoi.
After leading the majority of the race, Kiprop faded to finish in 3:32.03, as Kwemoi kicked in the home straight to streak clear, crossing the line in 3:30.49.
Farah, Britain’s 5,000 and 10,000m Olympic gold medallist trailed home in fifth in 3:31.74, behind Kenya’s second-placed Elijah Motonei Manangoi (3:31.19), Algeria’s Makhloufi (3:31.35) and Abdelaati Iguider of Morocco (3:31.54).
“I still get away with a positive feeling,” said Farah. I’m a 5k to 10k guy and I just ran 3:31, so that’s good.”
(Reporting by Toby Davis; Editing by Ken Ferris)