DOHA, Qatar (AP): Caster Semenya made herself the early Olympic frontrunner by easily winning the women’s 800 metres in the Doha Diamond League meet yesterday. Semenya decimated the field in a season’s best 1:58.26 seconds, almost nine-tenths of a second better than second-place Habitam Alemu of Ethiopia, 1:59.14. It was her second standout result to start the Olympic year, after announcing her ambition last month with an unprecedented hat-trick of 400m, 800m, and 1,500m titles at the South African championships. They were all the more remarkable because she’s hardly featured since her 2012 Olympic silver medal. She still hasn’t come close to the 1:55.56 she set in winning the 2009 Worlds’, when news leaked that she would be subject to gender testing. Semenya improved on her 800m time in Stellenbosch at Doha and was delighted. “I feel very good this year. I am focused on what I am doing,” she said. “My preparation has gone really well, but I can’t say there have been many changes in my training or my attitude.” DISAPPOINTED WITH LOSS Not so happy were Dafne Schippers, the World 200 champion, who was pipped in the 100m by American Tori Bowie, and the home favourite in the men’s high jump, Mutaz Essa Barshim. Barshim, who has jumped as high as 2.43 metres in setting the Asian record, could not do any better than 2.26, and was seventh in a competition won by American Erik Kynard at 2.33. “It’s all part of the plan. This being an Olympic year, I’m taking things slow,” Barshim insisted. “Last year, I peaked early, and by July, I was practically dead. I’m not going to repeat that mistake.” Bowie, the 100 bronze-medal winner at the Worlds last year in Beijing, said: “I gave the race my everything, and the win was mine. This being an Olympic year, I’m eagerly looking ahead at the outdoor season. I feel I’m a much better runner now than I was last season.” The women’s 3,000m featured two World champions in a fascinating duel. World champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia prevailed against World 10,000 champion Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya. Ayana was pushed to clock a season’s best 8:23.11. Cheruiyot was fourth. The men’s 200m was won by American Emir Webb in a meet record of 19.85s. He was the only person to break 20 seconds. Kenyans swept the 1,500m and 3,000m steeplechase. Asbel Kiprop led Elijah Motonei Manangoi and Silas Kiplagat to the podium in the 1,500m in 3:32.15, and Conseslus Kipruto won the steeplechase.
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