Though she said she had struggled a bit in warm conditions, Semenya won her race in 1:59.32, progressing safely to the semifinals to be held in the early hours of Friday morning (SA time).
“I’m just trying to comfort myself and run my own race so I can be better. So far I’m feeling good,” she said afterwards.
Meanwhile, Elroy Gelant did well to control his heat in the men’s 5 000m event, taking the pace out hard and finishing seventh in 13:22.00 to reach Sunday morning’s final as a “fastest loser”.
Willem Coertzen was lying 26th with 2 371 points after three rounds of the decathlon.
Elsewhere, Bridgitte Hartley, a bronze medallist at the 2012 London Games, was disappointed by her failure to reach the women’s K1 500m canoe sprint A final.
Hartley crossed the line in fifth position in her semifinal in 1:58.397 and booked her spot in Thursday’s B final.
“I always knew this was going to be one of the toughest races of my career … but I just felt like my boat run wasn’t coming together,” an emotional Hartley said.
“It only really came together in the last 200m when I felt I could really put in the power, but I realised it was just too late.”