Updated: August 17, 2016

Elroy Gelant leads his 5 000m heat at the Rio Games (photo credit: Roger Sedres/Image SA)

Caster Semenya and Elroy Gelant progressed safely through their first-round heats on Wednesday, with the South African duo holding their own against the best middle-distance runners in the world in the early session at the Rio Olympics.

Semenya ran a smart tactical race to win her heat in 1:59.32, booking her place in the semifinals to be held on Thursday evening (local time).

“It wasn’t easy. It was pretty hot,” she said.

“I just tried to hang on and tried to feel my body first so I was comfortable.

“I tried to just get in the top two and tried to win so I could be safe for the semifinals.”

Gelant was equally impressive, taking his heat out hard in warm conditions to give himself a chance of reaching Saturday night’s final.

Ensuring his race was faster than the first of two heats, he crossed the line in seventh place in 13:22.00 to earn a spot in the medal contest.

Decathlete Willem Coertzen struggled to produce his best form, but he kept up the fight and was lying 26th with 2 371 points after three events.

Coertzen opened his two-day campaign with a performance of 11.12 seconds in the 100m sprint and launched a 6.98m leap in the long jump before delivering a 14.00m heave in the shot put.

Coertzen was set to compete in the high jump and 400m disciplines in the evening session, and Rocco van Rooyen was in the start lists for the qualifying round of the men’s javelin throw.