Semenya 2nd in Prefontaine 800; Felix 3rd in 400

June 4, 2011 - 6:29 PM
Prefontaine Classic Athletics

Caster Semenya, from South Africa, competes in the women's 800-meter race during the Prefontaine Classic track and field meet in Eugene, Ore., Saturday, June, 4, 2011. Semenya finished in second place. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Caster Semenya is focusing on her times, not her finishes.

The world champion from South Africa achieved her goal of running the 800 meters in under two minutes in her American debut, saying her second-place showing at the Prefontaine Classic is irrelevant as she continues to come back from a long layoff.

Semenya, who won the 800 at the 2009 world championships then had to sit out nearly a year while she awaited results of gender testing, finished in 1 minute, 58.88 seconds Saturday, 0.59 behind Kenia Sinclair of Jamaica.

"The time is good. There is nothing bad I can say about the race," the 20-year-old Semenya said. "It doesn't matter about the position, it only matters about the time and it's good to run in the 1:58s."

It was South African's debut on the international Diamond League circuit. The Pre, as it is known, is the fourth meet in the series this season.

Last year the IAAF — the sport's international governing body — cleared her for competition. Citing her privacy, the results of the gender tests were not released. The IAAF's handling of the matter drew widespread criticism.

While trying to regain her form, Semenya has fought injury. But she has made strides in recent months, and was coming off a victory in the 800 at the IAAF World Challenge Dakar Grand Prix before visiting Eugene. Her Pre time was her best this season.

"It was very good," she said. "It was good to be back. Fans, I miss that a lot."

While Semenya was pleased with her finish, defending champion Allyson Felix ducked out after finishing third in the 400 meters.

Amantle Montsho of Botswana won the 400 in 50.59 seconds, while Felix crossed in 51.41 to trail fellow American Debbie Dunn by 0.04. Felix is a three-time world champion and a two-time Olympic silver medalist in the 200.

Jamaican Steve Mullings won the 100 in a meet record 9.80, the third best time on American soil. Justin Gatlin, who last year came off a four-year suspension for doping, finished sixth in 9.97, his first result under 10 seconds since his return.

Gatlin denies he knowingly used performance-enhancing substances, claiming a massage therapist, Eugene resident Chris Whetstine, used a testosterone-like cream on his legs in the spring of 2006. Whetstine has denied Gatlin's allegations.

Gatlin, who won the 100 at the Pre in 2005 and 2006, was reinstated last year and has recently been competing in minor meets in Europe. He is still excluded from major European events, and Rajne Soderberg, the director of the Stockholm Diamond League event, said in an e-mail Friday that the ban still holds.

"It felt good," Gatlin said of his race Saturday. "I've had a quad injury the last week and a half, so been working on that since I've been here. But just putting the technique together like my coach said, just come out here and put a good race together."

Gatlin says he hopes to build off the result to compete in the U.S. national championships later this month in Eugene.

In the first meeting between American Carmelita Jeter and Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser since 2009, Jeter won the women's 100 in a meet record 10.70, a world best this season. Fraser finished fourth in 10.95. The pair have met 15 times, with Jeter holding an 8-7 advantage.

Walter Dix defended his Pre 200 title in 20.19 seconds. He set the meet record in the event last year running in 19.72.

American David Oliver, the bronze medalist in the 110 hurdles at the 2008 Olympics, won the event in 12.94, besting Liu Xiang of China by 0.06.

Angelo Taylor, two-time Olympic gold medalist in the 400 hurdles, won the 400 meters in 45.16. South Africa's Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee known as the Blade Runner, finished last in the field in 46.33. Pistorius needs to run the event in 45.25 to qualify for the world championships this summer.

"I've got the flu at the moment so I think my warmup was slow today so the race wasn't very comfortable," he said. "It's frustrating. I think I've been doing too much traveling in the last two weeks."

American Bernard Lagat won the rarely contested 2-mile run in 8:13.62, while Ryan Gregson of Australia ran the Pre's International Mile in 3:53.86. Haron Keitany of Kenya won the elite Bowerman Mile in 3:49.09.

Abubaker Kaki Khamis won the men's 800 in a meet record 1:43.68. Former University of Oregon star Andrew Wheating finished fifth and Nick Symmonds of the Oregon Track Club finished eighth.

Kenya's Ezekiel Kemboi won the men's steeplechase in 8:08.34.

Ukranian triple jumper Olha Saladukha won her event with a leap of 49 feet, 1¾ inches on her 29th birthday.

American Lasinda Demus defended her Pre title in the women's 400 hurdles in 53.31, best in the world this season. Jamaica's Kaliese Spencer was second in 53.45.

Ethiopia's Gelete Burka of the Netherlands won the 1,500 in 4:04.63.

Nadeshda Ostapchuk of Belarus won the women's shot put with a throw of 67-6¾, while Germany's Robert Harting won the discus with a throw of 224-5. Countryman Raul Spank won the high jump with a leap of 7-7½.

The Pre Classic, in its 37th year, was named for American distance runner Steve Prefontaine, an Olympian and Oregon native who died at 24 in 1975.

In several distance events contested on Friday night as part of the meet, Kenya's Moses Mosop broke a world record by running the 30,000 meters in 1 hour, 26 minutes, 47.4 seconds. Mosop also broke the 25,000-meter world record en route in 1:12:25.4.

Both records were held by Japan's Toshihiko Seko, who ran the rarely contested 30k in 1:29:18.8 and the 25k in 1:13:55.8 in the same race at Christchurch in 1981.

England's Mo Farah, who trains in Oregon under famed marathoner Alberto Salazar, won the men's 10k in 26:46.57, breaking the 10-year-old British record of 27:18.14 held by Jon Brown. Kenya's Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya won the 5,000 meters in 14:33.96.