Port Elizabeth - Oscar Pistorius ran 48.24 seconds in
windy conditions to finish second in his 400 meters heat on the first
day of the South African championships on Friday.
amputee Olympic hopeful was more than three seconds off his season best
and nearly three seconds off the qualifying time for the London Games
after facing a strong headwind in the home straight at the NMMU Stadium
in Port Elizabeth.
Pistorius ran in lane eight and held back over
the last 50 meters to finish second to provincial team mate Ranti
Dekgate, qualifying for the semifinals at the two-day nationals in the
south coast city.
"We thought we'd have the wind as an assistance
into the home straight but it started working against us," Pistorius
told The Associated Press. "I'm feeling confident, I think it's going to
be a good workout."
Former world champion Caster Semenya went
straight into Saturday's 800 final at the university stadium after a
string of withdrawals in her event meant it wasn't necessary to hold
heats or semis on Friday. The 21-year-old Semenya was due to run her
second two-lap race of the Olympic year.
It leaves the 2009 world
title winner and last year's world silver medallist with just one race
at the South African nationals to hit her second qualifying time for
London, making herself eligible for the Olympics and easing the pressure
after a sluggish start to the season under new coach Maria Mutola.
Her time at last year's worlds in Daegu, South Korea, counts for Olympic qualifying.
last month registered 2:03.60 in her only 800 race so far this year,
Semenya needs to run another 1:59.90 time to qualify for her first
Olympics. She still has at least two more meets in South Africa after
the nationals and a number of European events to ensure she's eligible
Pistorius began his season with a morale-boosting
45.20-second run in Pretoria, giving him his first qualifying time of
the season and leaving him needing one more run of 45.30 or better in an
international meet to likely make history as the first amputee athlete
to run at the Olympics.
"I'm flirting a little bit with the idea,"
Pistorius said trackside when asked if he was thinking about London
yet. "The team still has to get selected. My job is just to work hard
until then and prove I'm in the right condition to be quite a strong 400
meter athlete if I get called up."
Athletics South Africa ruled
that athletes who want to go to the London Games must appear at the
South African championships, attracting Pistorius, Semenya, Olympic
silver-medallist long jumper Khotso Mokoena and former men's 800 world
champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi to the meet.
World bronze medal winner
L.J. van Zyl is also listed to run in the men's 400 meters hurdles at
the nationals, fulfilling his requirements and qualifying him for the
games. He has already registered two Olympic-qualifying times.