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SEMENYA SHINES IN RABAT

RABAT. — South Africa’s Caster Semenya won the 800m at the Diamond League meeting in Rabat, Morocco — the first to be held in Africa on Sunday.

Semenya (25) — who underwent gender testing after winning gold at the 2009 World Championship — coasted home in one minute 56,64 seconds — the fastest time in the world this year.

Semenya was on flying form, setting a world best time for 2016 of 1min 56,84sec in the 800m as she eased ahead of Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba and the up-and-coming Frenchwoman Renelle Lamote.

She is a clear favourite for gold in the event at Rio 2016, where she also plans to run the 400m.

Britain’s Lynsey Sharp finished fifth.

Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana came close to beating Tirunesh Dibaba’s 5000m world record and world best times of the year were set as Morocco hosted its first Diamond League meeting on Sunday at a windy Rabat.

Also at the meeting, seven-time world champion American LaShawn Merritt never looked in any danger as he tore round the track in 44,66sec in the 400m.

But in the very last race of the inaugural night, world 5 000m champion Ayana blamed the wind after she came over five seconds short of Dibaba’s 2008 record of 14min 11,15sec set in Oslo with a pace setter.

Despite blazing to victory in 14min 16,31sec ahead of Kenya’s Viola Kibiwot, who was some 13 seconds adrift with another Ethiopian Senbere Teferi in third, Ayana was clearly disappointed.

“The wind was too much, I’m sure that I’ll beat the record in one of my upcoming outings though,” said Ayana, who aims to race both the 5000m and 10000m at the Rio Olympics.

Other highlights of the night came as Kenyan Conseslus Kipruto, his face twisted in a grimace over the home straight, won the 3000m steeplechase ahead of three compatriots.

He also set a season’s world best time of 8min 02,77sec, beating the previous one he himself had established at Doha.

The 21-year-old double world silver medallist from 2013 and 2015 was under pressure from Jairus Kipchoge Birech, but eventually ran over a second faster for his seventh Diamond League win after taking the lead on the last turn.

Frenchman Mahiedine Mekhissi returned to competition after two bouts of surgery on his foot and then heel and 18 months out of racing, but the evening turned sour for the two-time Olympic silver medallist when he pulled up injured again.

Another Kenyan victory came in the 1500m with Timothy Cheruiyot winning in 3min 33,61sec ahead of compatriot Silas Kiplagat and Australian Ryan Gregson.

Ukrainian Bogdan Bondarenko boosted his Diamond Race hopes in the high jump, beating leader Erik Kynard with a jump of 2,31m to cut the gap to just six points.

In the men’s 800m, France’s 24-year-old Pierre-Ambroise Bosse booked himself a date at the Rio Games when he clinched victory in 1min 44,51sec, narrowly edging reigning 1500m Olympic champion, Algerian Taoufik Makhloufi (1:44,91). Bosnia’s Amel Tuka was third.

Another South African, Rushwai Samaai, won the men’s long jump with a personal best effort of 8,38 metres, albeit with a favourable wind, beating world indoor champion Australian Fabrice Lapierre into second by 2cm.

Poland were all smiles in the discus after world champion Piotr Malachowski won the event with an effort of 67,45m to fend off compatriot Robert Urbanek, who was second with 65,04.

Jamaican sprinter Elaine Thompson ran into a 1,3sec headwind to register a 100m victory in 11.02sec.

There was some home cheer as world and Olympic 1500m bronze medallist Abdelaati Iguider won the 3 000m with a world best time for the year of 7:38,85 over the non-Olympic distance.

Elsewhere at the meeting, Panama’s Alonso Edward won the men’s 200m in 20,07sec ahead of Ivory Coast sprinter Wilfried Koffi. — AFP.

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