Wesley Botton
Chief sports writer
2 minute read
26 May 2017
5:18 pm

Caster Semenya carries South Africa’s hopes in Eugene

Wesley Botton

The sprinting queen is the only local representation at the weekend's meeting in the US after Wenda Nel and Sunette Viljoen withdraw.

Caster Semenya. Photo: Roger Sedres/Gallo Images.

Caster Semenya will lead a lone South African charge in Eugene this weekend, after compatriots Sunette Viljoen and Wenda Nel were withdrawn from the start lists on the eve of the Prefontaine Classic.

In a statement released by her management team, it was revealed that Viljoen had reconsidered her participation at the third leg of the Diamond League series, citing the 25-hour travel time each way, which would require 10 days for the Olympic javelin throw silver medallist to recover fully from “severe jet lag”.

With 10 days between the Diamond League event and her next competition at a European permit meeting in Prague – one of seven events left on Viljoen’s schedule before the World Championships in London in August – she had opted to sacrifice Diamond League points and focus on the European season after discussions with coach Tersius Liebenberg.

“We are chasing a bigger goal of gold in London,” said Viljoen’s manager, Munya Maraire.

“Sunette’s training is on course to secure a good performance in Prague.”

Nel, meanwhile, had been included in the provisional entries for the women’s 400m hurdles contest but the African champion was scratched from the updated list released on Thursday.

“Unfortunately I’ve been pulled from the race with no clear explanation,” Nel confirmed.

“I received the message (on Wednesday) morning so I didn’t get on the plane.”

In their absence, Semenya will line up in the women’s 800m race, scheduled to start at 11.16pm (SA time) on Saturday night.

Semenya, who won the two-lap Diamond League series in 2016, will face six of the women she beat in the Olympic final last year.

She nonetheless remains the clear favourite in an attempt to stretch her early lead in the campaign, after clocking the fastest time in the world this year (1:56.61) to win the opening leg in Doha earlier this month.

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