The Women’s 800m had it’s share of controversy last year but that shouldn’t alter the fact that there is a mouthwatering duel in prospect in Degu.  Let Luke Coleman talk you through it…


The Women’s 800m over the last two years has presents its fair shares of drama with the rise and fall of world class athletes over the last two years.

In 2008 Pamela Jelimo went from a promising 400-meter sprinter to an unbeatable 800-meter juggernaut. She set a world junior record (1:54.01, the third-fastest 800 in women’s history), won the gold in Beijing Olympic Games and capped the season by taking the Golden League’s $1 million jackpot by remaining undefeated throughout the series. There was an excitement around her coming into 2009 as a genuine chance of taking one of the longest world records still in existence but as quickly as she shot to the top of the pile in the 800m her reigns on the World Championship quickly loosened after an Achilles injury hampered her preparations. She managed to come back from this winning her heat but failing to finish her semi final with a knee injury.

This was however not the biggest surprise of the 800m in Berlin where we saw 18-year-old South African Caster Semenya seemingly came from nowhere to win the World Championship by a streak ahead of the rest of the worlds best. The South African clocked a stunning 1.55.45 to put her just outside top 10 on the all time list for the event.

2010 was an important year for both athletes; but for all the wrong reasons. Following her victory at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, questions were raised about whether Semenya had a physical condition that might give her an unfair advantage over her competitors. She was withdrawn from international competition until 6 July 2010 when the IAAF cleared her to return to competition.

While Castor was facing problems off the track, Jelimo was facing on track problems herself. In 2010 she couldn’t break the 2-minute, running a season best of 2:01.52. She finished eighth and 11th in her two Diamond League races. Questions have been raised as to whether this decrease in performance has been down to injury or whether her meteoric rise to fame has been too much to handle for the young Kenyan woman.

With last year being a year to forget for both athletes what does 2011 have in store? The last two weeks have seen both athletes make a promising start. Pamela Jelimo got her season off to a good start with a 2nd place finish in 200m in a time of 26.7 a clear indication of her speed. She then ran 1500m to test endurance but prematurely dropped out of this a clear indication her endurance is still lacking a small bit.

A week later Castor Semenya also made a promising start to her season with a impressive 2.02/4.12 double to take the South African championships 800m and 1500m titles. While she had hoped to break 2 for the 800m she will take comfort in the strength she has shown in early season.

If they continue to improve this season we could be in store for a mouth watering head to head coming into Daegu. Whether Jelimo can challenge Semenya is questionable. If her problems have only been physical – and she hasn’t suffered any lasting damage – a comeback is likely. But if she’s lost the competitive fire she enjoyed in 2008, that’s a wound that may never heal.

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