Olympic hope Pistorius into S.African 400m final

Double amputee Oscar Pistorius reached the South African national championships 400m final at wind-swept Nelson Mandela University Friday.

He clocked 48.24 seconds when finishing second in a heat and 47.91 to come fourth in a semi-final and make the Saturday final during a two-day gathering of 2012 London Olympic Games hopefuls.

The Blade Runner appeared to be taking it easy in the semi-finals, glancing to his left and right during the race and switching to cruise mode during the final stages.

Pistorius bettered the Games qualifying time of 45.30 in Pretoria this year and must do so again at an international meet to realise his dream of being the first amputee to compete at the quadrennial multi-sport showcase.

"Athletics South Africa wants me to better the qualifying time once more at an overseas event and I have no problem with that as I run better in major races," he told reporters in the Indian Ocean city.

The organisation also told athletes they must compete at the national championships to be considered for London, with officials setting the South African team a target of 12 medals from all sports.

Former world 800m women's champion Caster Semenya is considered the best medal prospect among the athletes and she went straight into the Saturday final after withdrawals meant heats and semi-finals were unnecessary.

Semenya, whose 2009 Berlin world title was followed by gender tests after complaints from rivals, bettered the London qualifying mark of 1:59.90 when finishing second last year in defence of her crown.

Her first South African outing of this season delivered a disappointing 2:03.60 and coach and former Olympic 800m champion Maria Mutola says it is important that her protege runs a sub-two-minute race.

"If we go to Europe with anything under two minutes it would be a good thing -- but anything over two minutes could be a problem for Caster confidence wise," said the Mozambican who won gold at the 2000 Sydney Games.

Semenya is in the same position as Pistorius -- needing to match or better the London qualifying mark once more to seal a place in the team for the July 27 to August 12 spectacle.

Khotso Mokoena, whose long jump silver was the only medal won by South Africa in Beijing four years ago, looked a shadow of his former self when finishing only second behind Zarck Visser in the final.

The first two leaps of Mokoena were ruled no-jumps and the best he managed was 8.13 metres -- short of the London qualifying mark which Visser achieved with 8.21 metres, but it did not count owing to a tailwind.

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