South African star Caster Semenya moved a step closer to adding the Olympic title to her controversial 2009 world title as she eased into the 800m semifinals on Wednesday. The 21-year-old, who is coached by 2000 Sydney Olympics 800m champion Maria Mutola from Mozambique, finished second in her heat behind American Alysia Montano.
Her time of 2min 00.71sec was the third fastest of the heats bettered only by Montano (2:00.47) and defending champion Pamela Jelimo of Kenya (2:00.54).
Semenya had to undergo drug tests followed by gender tests following that magnificent victory in Berlin in 2009. The situation spiralled out of control with Semenya complaining of "unwarranted and invasive scrutiny of the most intimate and private details of my being".
She was barred from the track for almost a year before being cleared to run again and her comeback was hampered by a lower back injury.
Farah on course for grand double
Newly-crowned Olympic 10,000m champion Mo Farah remained on course for a distance double after safely negotiating his passage into the final of the 5000m on Wednesday. Farah, 29, timed 13:26.00sec in finishing third in his heat of the 12-and-a-half lap race won by Ethiopian-born Azeri Hayle Ibrahimov.
"It was pretty difficult, pretty hard," said Farah. "The 10K took more out of me than I thought, but I've got a couple of days to recover." Kenyans Isiah Koech and Edwin Soi shared early pace-making duties.
Olympic debut for Saudi athlete
Sarah Attar became the first female track and field athlete to represent Saudi Arabia at an Olympics when she competed in the 800m heats on Wednesday. The 19-year-old, who wore a white head cover, a long-sleeved green top, received a ovation from a capacity crowd at the Olympic stadium as she trailed in last of the eight runners.