New moves earn Caster SA record
Birthday boy Wayde shows class
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.