LONDON – Namibia’s sprinter Tjipekapora Herunga bowed out of the Olympics when she came sixth in the first semifinal heat of the women’s 400m on Saturday in a time of 52,53 seconds.
With only the top eight athletes of the three semifinal heats going through to the final, Herunga was way down the pecking order, which ruled her out of contention for a place in the final.
Her heat got off to a frantic start as Sanya Richards Ross set a blistering pace to take the lead, and by the halfway mark Herunga was well down the field.
She improved on the home straight but was well behind Richards Ross, who won the heat in 50,07 seconds.
Christine Ohurugu of Great Britain finished 2nd in 50,22 and Rosemarie Whyte of Jamaica third in 50,98 to clinch spots in the final.
Yulia Gushchina of Russia (51,66), Joanne Cuddihy of Ireland (51,88) and Herunga (52,53) trailed in that order.
Herunga’s time was well outside her personal best time of 51,24 she set in Pretoria earlier this year. However, her coach Letu Hamhola said he was happy with her performance.
“We planned from the beginning to take it round for round. We got through the first round and then in the semifinal we got a fast draw.
It was a fast race with Sonja in there - she’s been a world champion before - but Tjipe went in there and I’m happy for what she has done and I can’t wait for Brazil 2016 because I know we will be back and we will be much better than we were today.”
Hamhola said the most important thing was that Herunga gave her best. “You don’t always run your personal best times because this is a championship and it’s not always easy because there’s always pressure involved. The most important thing is that you give your best. She gave everything that she had and that is important - not to come out and say I could have done this or that, it’s just for us now to go back and work harder.”
“A sixth place in the semifinals – that’s not bad. We weren’t in Beijing, we were not even at the Commonwealth Games, and last year at the World Championships she went out first round and that was more disappointing. But now we are at the semifinals so now it’s up to us to take that step forward to make the finals and to come into contention for medals,” he added.
Herunga expressed satisfaction with her performance despite failing to make the cut. “The weather was good and I ran well and at least I made it to the semifinals. Even though I didn’t make it to the finals, I know at the next Olympics I will be there because this is only my first Olympics and I made it to the semifinals so now Ill just go back and work hard.”