Caster Semenya flies the SA flag after winning the women’s 800m at the World Championships in 2009. Photo suppliedCaster Semenya’s preparation to defend her World Championship title continue tomorrow night (29 July) in Stockholm, Sweden at the 11th Diamond League Meeting of 2011.

Semenya faces a tough challenge from Russians Svetlana Klyuka, Yelena Kofanova and Tatyana Adrianova. The trio finished 4th, 5th and 6th respectively at the recent Russian Championships held in Cheboksarvy from 21-24 July.

Klyuka and Kofanova have both run faster than Semenya this season, recording times of 1:58;03 (SB) and 1:58;25 (PB) respectively at the Russian Championships. Semenya’s best this year is 1:58;61 run in Oslo in June.

Semenya has raced Svetlana Klyuka <> twice already and has come up trumps on both occasions. The first time they met was in Berlin at the World Championships where Semenya was crowned world Champion in 2009. The second time was in Oslo this year. Klyuka finished 8th in a time of 1:59;97 to the third place finish of Semenya (1:58;61).

Ominously though for Semenya, Klyuka has been improving ever since that meeting. The 32 year old Russian clocked 1:59;65 in Prague (13 June), 1:58;96 (Moscow 10 July), 1:58;77 in the heats of the Russian Championships and her season’s best of 1:58;03 in the final. Likewise Kofanova has been improving steadily.

Kofanova and Semenya have also clashed twice, the score being 1 – 1. Semenya winning the World Title and Kofanova beating the South African in Rovoreto, in August last year (2:00;54 – 2:07;16). However 2010 was not the best of years for Semenya and she has been steadily improving this season from her opener of 2:04;12 in Potcheftstroom in February to her 1:58;61 in Oslo.

Semenya though had to settle for 5th in Reims on 5 July (2:01;02) before emerging triumphant in St Denis (2:00;18 – 8 July).

The Russians are not the only athletes she needs to be aware of. The Morroccan Hachima Hachlaf is a mere point behind Semenya on the Diamond League Standings. Hachlaf beat Semenya in Oslo to set her PB (1:58;27) but played second fiddle to the South African in St Denis.

Also in the field is Jamaica’s Kenia Sinclair who has the 3rd fastest time of the 2011 season in this field; 1:59.29 run in Eugene Oregan on 4 June. Only the Russian’s Klyuka and Kofanova have faster times.

In fact, with the exception of Tatiana Adrianova of Russia (2:01.62 SB), the rest of the field all have Season’s Bests of 1:58. This could well be one of the toughest races Semenya has faced this season.

The Stockholm Diamond League is broadcast on Supersport 2 at 20h00 on Friday 29 July.