SA’s top athletes make a mark
With exactly 60 days to go before the commencement of the Rio Olympic Games, South African athletes are already showing their readiness to conquer at the world’s biggest showpiece.
On Thursday, Wayde van Niekerk, Caster Semenya and Sunette Viljoen all won their respective events at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome.
They pocketed $10 000 (R150 000) each for their victories. This put them in line for the R617 000 first prize at stake when the season ends in September.
Van Niekerk, competing in his first international race of the season, won the men’s 400m race in 44.19 seconds, just 0.08 outside the season’s best he set in his home town, Bloemfontein, at the Athletics SA Open Championships last month.
The charismatic runner led off the final bend and drew clear to cross the line well ahead of Grenada’s Barlon Taplin, who came second in 44.43.
The in-form Semenya was perhaps even more dominant as she charged to the finish line in 1:56.64 to equal the world lead she had set in Rabat less than two weeks earlier in the women’s 800m.
Semenya was happy to sit at the back of the field and was seemingly boxed in on the first lap.
But she quickly moved to the front of the field in the second lap, reeling in Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi, who had built a healthy lead over the chasing pack.
Niyonsaba had no answer for Semenya’s kick as the South African star pulled away easily over the final 60m to cross the line in 1.56.64 for her third Diamond League victory of the year.
Viljoen snatched victory with a powerful heave of 61.95m.
GLORY Caster Semenya after her impressive wining run