RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, Aug 19- Former World 800m Champion Eunice Sum’s Olympic dream came tumbling down like a pack of cards after finishing a disappointing seventh in her semi-final, with youngster Margaret Nyairera carrying Kenya’s only hope against South Africa’s Caster Semenya heading into Sunday’s final.
Sum was a pale shadow of her former self and could not sustain a last gasp surge in pace, fading off to seventh in a time of 2:00:88, a heat won by Pol Joanna Jozwik.
This was a contrast of her powered run in the Monaco Diamond League that saw her run a season best time of 1:57.47.
She had shown some glimpse of hope after running within the leading trio in the opening lap but having been tucked in between a forest of athletes at the home straight meant she could not put in a final kick to the finish line, seeing her fade off as Jozwik led Canadian Melisa Bishop to the automatic qualifying slots.
Kenya’s only hope against on-form South African Semenya now lies on 20-year old Nyairera who zoomed to victory in the first semi-final in a time of 1:59.21, ahead of world indoor champion Burundian Francine Niyonsaba.
Starring off in lane three, Nyairera kept at par with the sprint leaders heading into the first bend ensuring she kept within pace, with her demeanor making her run head and shoulders above the rest of the pack.
The 2014 World Junior champion pumped the pace in the home straight, zooming past Niyonsaba who had chosen to control the race after the bell.
Semenya comfortably won the third semi, cruising past the finish line in 1:58.15, the fastest qualifying time among the 24 athletes.
Kenya’s Winnie Chebet who was in this semi finishing sixth in 2:01.90.
The South African, 2009 World champion over the two lap race is in fine shape having registered three of the four fastest times in the world this year.
Her national record of 1:55.33 in Monaco last month elevated the 25-year-old to 12th on the world all-time list.
Great Briton Lynsey Sharp also qualified from this semi after finishing second in a time of 1:58.65 with the fast pace employed by Semenya proving beneficial to USA’s Kate Grace and Bulgarian Marina Arzamasova who qualified as the two fastest losers.