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Mariya Savinova wins women's 800m with perfectly-timed run

Updated: Sunday, 12 Aug 2012 00:16 | Comments

Mariya Savinova of Russia celebrates as she crosses the finish line
Mariya Savinova of Russia celebrates as she crosses the finish line

Russian Mariya Savinova added Olympic gold to her world crown when she timed her run to perfection to secure an impressive women's 800 metres victory.

Savinova, the European woman Athlete of 2011, did not panic when defending champion Pamela Jelimo of Kenya kicked three metres clear down the back straight on the final lap.

Jelimo paid for going too soon and Savinova, 26, took over to storm to gold in one minute 56.19, with South African Caster Semenya producing a late burst to win silver in 1:57.23. Russian Ekaterina Poistogova clocked 1:57.53 for bronze.

Jelimo faded out of the medals and was fourth.

"It's just amazing. Right now I can't feel anything, but I'm amazed. It's been hard work, but it's the Olympics," said Savinova.

Semenya, the 2009 world champion whose emphatic victory in Berlin raised questions about her gender and started a verification process that still clouds her achievement, trailed the field at the bell and had too much ground to make up.

"I am happy with the result. I left it a bit late, but I am happy with the silver," said Semenya. "But my coach is not really happy."

As an unknown 18-year-old, Semenya emerged from obscurity to win the world title but her emphatic victory prompted the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to order an investigation into possible drug use and ask for a gender test.

The inquiry set off a long-running controversy, marked by media leaks, accusations and insults that enraged her home country and severely affected a shy girl from a rural village.

Semenya's sexuality became the subject of widespread debate and kept her off the track for almost a year before the IAAF cleared her to run again.

"I've been waiting all year for this. The last four years have not been easy," she said. "I'm already thinking about Rio (2016) and I hope I'll be there."

Jelimo was circumspect about the outcome.

"You have to accept that sometimes you are at the top and sometimes you are not," she said. "My body did not stick, but for me it's the best I can do."

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Medal Table

Country Total
USA 45 27 30 102
China 38 28 23 89
Great Britain 29 17 19 65
Russia 25 25 32 82
South Korea 13 8 7 28
Ireland 1 1 3 5
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