SUM WARNS SEMENYA: Former world champ and Nyairera say South African will not have it easy in Rio

By DENNIS OKEYO: Thursday, July 21st 2016 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Athletics
800m runner Eunice Sum and 5000metre's Mercy Cherono in training session ahead of Rio Olympics 2016 at Kipchoge Stadium, in Eldoret , Uasin Gishu County on July 20, 2016.[PHOTO:DENNIS OKEYO/STANDARD]

South Africa’s Caster Semenya looks a shoe-in for a gold in the 800m at the forthcoming Olympic Games.

The strongly-built South African has been unbeatable this season in the IAAF Diamond League circuit and many Kenyans are worried that the likes of Eunice Sum and Margaret Nyairera will not have a chance in Brazil.

However, Sum and the promising World Junior champion Nyairera say they are prepared to take the fight to the South African, adding there are no favourites at events like the Olympics and World Championships.

Despite featuring in few races this season unlike last year when she won most of the races, culminating to her winning the Diamond League prize money, 28-year-old Sum has benchmarked the Rio Olympics title as her main target.

Sum went to last year’s World Championship as the hot favourite but had to settle for a bronze medal as Belarusian Marina Arzamasova produced a killer sprint in the homestretch. Canada’s Melissa Bishop won the silver.

For the first, Sum will be also be competing at a major event without her mentor, Janeth Jepkosgei, who is currently on maternity leave.

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“Running the 800m is very tactical, it’s not anyone’s race. Last year, I went to the World Championships as the favourite but had to settle for bronze, so anything is possible. That’s why people should not say Semenya is unbeatable or that she will be handed the Olympic title on a silver platter.

“Janeth took a break from running, but she is still my big motivator. She encourages me a lot every single day but her absence is not affecting me at all.

 

SENIOR RANKS

“I haven’t raced in many events this season but it’s tactical. I didn’t want to burn myself out before Rio. So don’t write me off yet. See you in Rio,” said Sum after her training session at Kipchoge Stadium in Eldoret yesterday.

Sum will be teaming up with compatriot Nyairera, who has proved strong, to compete with big girls after graduating to the senior ranks this year.

Also in the 800m team is former World Junior Championships silver medallist Winnie Chebet.

The Kenyans girls will also face a strong challenge from Burundian Francine Niyonsaba. But Nyairera believes she has what it takes to go for a bigger global title as she fine-tunes her speed work.

She finished third at the Diamond League meeting in Monaco last week, clocking 1:56.64 in a race won by Semenya in a series record time of 1:55.33. Niyonsaba finished second (1:56.24).

“In athletics anything is possible. It all depends on who is well prepared mentally,” Nyairera said.

 

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