Daegu (South Korea): Two years removed from the controversy surrounding her gender, Caster Semenya got off to a strong start in defending her 800-meter title at the world championships.
The South African easily qualified for the semifinals Thursday, finishing second in her heat in 2 minutes, 1.01 seconds.
Semenya has been struggling through much of the year and was drawn in a heat alongside Mariya Savinova of Russia, who has the season`s top time. Still, the 20-year-old South African led through much of the finishing straight and eased up to allow Savinova victory as both clocked the same time.
"I`m not under pressure," Semenya said. "I want to go back and focus on the semifinals."
Semenya is looking to show her victory as a relatively unknown teenager in 2009 was no fluke.
She was forced out of competition for 11 months by the IAAF following gender tests, threatened to take the governing body to court, was cleared to run by the IAAF without explanation and then missed the 2010 Commonwealth Games with a back injury.
Janeth Jepkosgei Busienei of Kenya, the 2007 world champion, had the top time of 1:59.36 in Thursday`s heats.
The semifinals of the women`s 800 will be held Friday with the final set for Sunday, the last day of competition.