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updated: 8/9/2012 3:01 PM

Semenya advances to 800-meter final at Olympics

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  • South Africa's Caster Semenya reacts Thursday after competing in the women's 800-meter semifinal.

    South Africa's Caster Semenya reacts Thursday after competing in the women's 800-meter semifinal.
    associated press

Associated Press

LONDON -- Closing in on an Olympic medal three years after being forced to undergo gender tests, Caster Semenya of South Africa won her 800-meter semifinal heat in 1 minute, 57.67 seconds on Thursday night.

The final is Saturday and will include defending champion Pamela Jelimo of Kenya, who won her semifinal.

"I'm very happy to get through to the finals," Semenya said. "It was very hard, but I tried my best. I just have to go to my bed."

Semenya is making her Olympic debut. She was sidelined for nearly a year while track and field's governing body decided whether to allow her to compete after she won the 2009 world title at age 18. She was tested and eventually cleared to return to action in 2010, then was the runner-up at last year's world championships.

"We've done a lot of training, and it's a matter of time," Semenya said. "Pumping the legs, put on the spikes, just run. Doesn't matter which result. So long as you're in the final. I think it's very important."

Semenya carried South Africa's flag at the opening ceremony in London and is a leading medal contender in the 800.

"It's the right time," Semenya said. "Now I have to go rest and think about the final. Nothing else. ... I think the time makes me very confident.

"Sometimes, if you want to run a good race, you just have to forget about everybody and think about your own race. It can disturb you, but you have to think of yourself. When you cross the line, it's what matters."

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