EUGENE, Oregon (Reuters) - South Africa’s Olympic and world champion Caster Semenya put aside controversy and ran the fastest women’s 800 metres of the year at the Prefontaine Classic Diamond League meeting on Saturday.
In the sprints, America’s Ronnie Baker upset compatriot Christian Coleman, the indoor 60m record holder, in the 100m in a wind-assisted 9.78 seconds while countryman Noah Lyles claimed the 200 in a personal best 19.69 seconds.
Semenya, whose middle-distance running career could be under threat because of a new IAAF hyperandrogenism rule, clocked one minute 55.92 seconds in a dominant performance as she ran the fastest 800m on American soil.
The IAAF rule, which is scheduled to become effective in November, would effectively give her a choice of taking medication to restrict her testosterone level or move to longer distance events.
She has not lost an 800m race since 2015.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” the double Olympic champion said when asked about the rule that South Africa may take to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
“I’m here to perform,” she said. “To be honest I’m just an athlete. There is nothing I can do, there is nothing I can say about that.”
But after signing autographs, taking a victory lap to cheers from the sell-out crowd, she said that some day she might like to run a marathon.
“When you live, you gain experience, I’m more mature. I’ve learned about everything, especially in sports,” she added. “I just want to inspire people, and inspire the youth, to show them that if you believe, anything was possible.”
The triple world champion also said breaking the 800 world record of 1:53.28 set by Czechoslovakia’s Jamila Kratochvilova set in 1983 was on her to-do list.
“That is the plan. Now it is not about running hard, it is running smart,” said the 27-year-old South African, who has a best of 1:55.16. She also quashed any suggestions she could retire soon.
“If (sprinter) Kim Collins can run to age 40, what about me?” said Semenya, who finished ahead of American Ajee Wilson.
Baker, the world indoor bronze medallist, pulled ahead of Coleman in the final 20 metres to win with an assisting wind of 2.4 metres per second.
“I was just really excited to be able to come out with a W. It gives me a lot of confidence,” said Baker, who next heads to Europe.
Coleman finished second in 9.84 seconds with Britain’s Reece Prescod third in 9.88 seconds.
“Just knocking the rust off,” Coleman said of his outdoor season opener. “Got a long season ahead of me, so I’m excited about it.”
Kenyan world silver medallist Timothy Cheruiyot won the mile in 3:49.87 and countryman Benjamin Kigen clocked 8:09.07 in the steeplechase to upset world champion Conseslus Kipruto.
Bahamian Shaunae Miller (49.52 seconds in 400m), American Shelby Houlihan (3:59.06 in 1,500m) and Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba (14:26.89 in 5,000m) also had world-leading performances for 2018.
Also winning were Olympic champions Christian Taylor, who leaped 17.73m in the triple jump, and Oregonian Ryan Crouser, who heaved the shot 22.53m.
The meeting was the last major event at the nearly 100-year-old Hayward Field, which will be torn down to make way for a new facility for the 2021 IAAF world championships in Eugene.
Editing by Clare Fallon/Peter Rutherford