New moves earn Caster SA record

Birth­day boy Wayde shows class

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE - ASHFAK MO­HAMED

CASTER SEMENYA, you golden girl! The 2012 Olympic sil­ver medal­list proved that she is the favourite to go a step fur­ther at the Rio Olympics af­ter break­ing the South African 800m record at the Di­a­mond League meet­ing in Monaco on last night.

Semenya’s time of 1:55.33 beats her pre­vi­ous na­tional record of 1:55.45, which she ran in 2009 when she won the world ti­tle in Berlin.

But the 25- year- old put to­gether the per­fect race at the Stade Louis II sta­dium in Monaco by adopt­ing dif­fer­ent tac­tics from the start. Semenya usu­ally stays in the bunch at the back of the field on the first lap, but last night she was tucked in just be­hind the pace-set­ter through­out.

And when Be­larus ath­lete Kat­siaryna Be­lanovich stepped off the track, Semenya re­mained just in front of the rest of the field, with her ri­val Francine Niyon­s­aba of Bu­rundi keep­ing up with the pace. But then Semenya,

put her foot down as she hit the home straight and she pumped those arms to sprint through the line in a bril­liant time. She showed her de­light with a unique lit­tle “jig” to go with her usual “dust­ing off the shoul­ders” rou­tine she’s known for.

Semenya is now 12th on the all-time 800m list, al­though still shy of the world record of 1:53.28 by Jarmila Kra­tochvilova of the Czech Repub­lic and Kenyan Pamela Je­limo’s African mark of 1:54.03.

But it was still a new SA record, meet­ing record, Di­a­mond League record and world-lead­ing time for 2016.

Mean­while, Wayde van Niek­erk held his fire un­til the field en­tered the home straight, be­fore he show­cased the gulf in class by mo­tor­ing to vic­tory.

The 400m world cham­pion paced him­self well in the open­ing 300m on his 24th birth­day, mak­ing up ground on Botswana star Isaac Mak­wala on his out­side from lane five.

Sport­ing a bright pink bib, Van Niek­erk then stretched his legs in the last 100m as he opened up a gap over the rest of the field in the fi­nal 50m. It was a vic­tory that was achieved with ruth­less ef­fi­ciency as the favourite for the gold medal at next month’s Olympics stopped the clock at 44.12.

The time was just 0.01 of a sec­ond out­side his sea­son’s best of 44.11, but it looked as if Van Niek­erk had more than enough in re­serve.

He cer­tainly laid down a marker to his main ri­vals, Amer­i­can LaShawn Mer­ritt and Ki­rani James of Gre­nada – who are the only ath­letes to have run faster than Van Niek­erk in 2016 – that he can go much quicker in Brazil.

“It was a tough race, but I’m tak­ing ev­ery small thing as it comes,” Van Niek­erk told the Di­a­mond League web­site af­ter the race. “This is an­other op­por­tu­nity I am given to fine­tune my rac­ing. Hope­fully by the time the Olympics come, I will be ready.

“It’s a bless­ing to be able to cel­e­brate my birth­day here. All my fam­ily is here and I thank the or­gan­is­ers for al­low­ing them to come. I’m look­ing for­ward to be­ing back and cel­e­brate with them.”

It was a dis­ap­point­ing night for African long jump cham­pion Ruswahl Sa­maai, who has been in ex­cel­lent form this year.

Sa­maai is ranked fourth in the world in 2016, but couldn’t breach the eight-me­tre mark on the night.

The wind was blow­ing in­con­sis­tently dur­ing the long jump com­pe­ti­tion, rang­ing from +0.1m/s to +2.0m/s, and that may have af­fected Sa­maai as he opened up with 7.93m and 7.92m in his first two jumps, but reg­is­tered no-jumps in the last six rounds to end fourth.

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