LONDON -- Former Cal star Alysia Montano, making her Olympic debut, won her heat in the 800-meter run Wednesday, advancing to Thursdays semifinal.
Montano, 26, finished in 2 minutes, 0.47 seconds, the fastest time in any of six first-round heats.
"She wanted to get out, settle in, then shut it down and cruise in," her coach, Tony Sandoval, said in an email to this newspaper. "Waiting around the last four days, watching all the other events and all that pent up energy she (had) within herself, has been the only concern.
"She felt so easy and really excited to rave tomorrow. The semis will be faster."
Montano beat South Africa's Caster Semenya, who was making her Olympic debut three years after being forced to undergo gender tests. Semenya crossed in 2:00.71.
Semenya was sidelined for nearly a year while track and field's governing body decided whether to allow her to compete after she won the 2009 world title at age 18. She was tested and eventually cleared to return to action in 2010, then was the runner-up at last year's world championships.
Semenya carried South Africa's flag at the opening ceremonies in London and is a leading medal contender in the 800.
Also advancing to the semifinals were the other two Americans, Alice Schmidt (2:01.65) and Geena Gall (2:03.85), and Kenya's Pamela Jelimo (2:00.54), the defending Olympic champion. Jelimo stands atop the world list this season, with Montano second.