Olympics: Alysia Montano earns spot in 800m final

Ex-Cal star Alysia Montano grabbed the final qualifying spot for the Olympic 800-meter final on Saturday, running 1:58.42 in her semifinal heat today.

Montano ran in the fastest of the three semifinals, so her fourth-place finish got her a spot in the final based on time.

“My coach talked to me about relaxing, and I think I relaxed too much,” Montano said. “When they made a move on the backstretch it took me a second to respond, and when I did it wasn’t the energy to respond it was the fact that I was boxed and had to jump out.

“That energy was a total error and I had to make it up in the last 200 meters. I’m really thankful I get an opportunity to redeem myself.”

Saturday will be plenty competitive.

Defending Olympic champ Pamela Jelimo of Kenya won a slow first heat in 1:59.42 and Ekaterina Poistogova of Russia securing the second automatic qualifier at 1:59.45.

South African Caster Semenya won the second heat in a season-best of 1:57.67, with Russia’s Elena Arzhakova (1:58.13), Kenya’s Janeth Jepkosgei (1:58.26) and Montano going 2-3-4.

Russia’s Mariya Savinova, the defending IAAF world champion, stormed from behind to win the third heat in 1:58.58, with Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba second in a national-record time of 1:58.67.

The U.S. has produced just two medal winners ever in the women’s 800 — Madeline Manning with a gold in 1968 and Kim Gallagher with a silver in 1984 and a bronze in ’88.

Jeff Faraudo