Wham bam‚ thank-you ma’am! Caster Semenya kickstarted a late flurry of three golds for South Africa at the African championships in Durban last night.
The hosts top the medals table with nine gold‚ five silver and four bronze.
Semenya clocked 4min 01.99sec in the 1500m to break the meet record and beat her nearest rival by more than a second.
That is now the third event in which she has posted a qualifying time for the Rio Olympics‚ adding to the 400m and her favourite 800m.
And while it ranks her ninth in the world this year‚ that time is faster than the winning efforts at the last two world championships and even the 2012 Olympics.
But Semenya said she had yet to decide whether she would double up at the Games in August‚ or simply focus on the 800m.
Her gold last night was the first for SA on the third day of the continental showpiece‚ and she was followed by powerful displays by the women and men’s 4x100m relay teams‚ both stunning their more fancied opponents from West Africa.
Ivory Coast sprinters won both individual 100m crowns the day before‚ but they were no match for the South African relays.
Tebogo Mamatu‚ Alyssa Conley‚ Tamzin Thomas and Carina Horn combined for victory in 43.66‚ while Emile Erasmus‚ Wayde van Niekerk‚ Gift Leotlela and Akani Simbine took the men home in 38.84.
Sadly‚ Olympic qualification is beyond them‚ unless Athletics SA (ASA) can get it together to race them again in Europe before the July 11 deadline.
ASA executive member Pieter Lourens said they were looking at finding races to run in Europe‚ but that is going to be a challenge.
Both units could go much faster with sufficient training — neither had much practice going into these championships.
“To be honest we were just trying to get the baton around the track‚” a smiling Conley said afterwards.
Jacob Rozani finished second behind Botswana star Nijel Amos in the men’s 800m‚ but more importantly‚ his 1min 45.38sec was a qualifying time for the Olympics.
That’s what he was thinking about as he sprinted for the finish line. “I was pushing to qualify for the Olympics‚” said Rozani‚ who trains in Rustenburg.
But there were no SA medals in the men’s 400m hurdles‚ where Kenya won gold and bronze; winner Boniface Mucheru was a finalist at the 2015 world championships.
LJ van Zyl‚ who struggled over the final hurdle‚ was fourth in 49.46‚ and Cornel Fredericks‚ still searching for a qualifying time‚ ended sixth in 49.82.
In the absence of world champion Van Niekerk in the 400m‚ Botswana took gold and silver‚ courtesy of Baboloki Thebe‚ 18‚ and Karabo Sibanda‚ 19.
Defending champion Isaac Makwala had bolted into an early lead‚ but he faded badly at the end‚ practically walking by the time he stepped over the finishing line in fourth position.
— TMG Digital