South Africa's Caster Semenya celebrates with the Diamond Trophy after victory in the women's 800 metres during the IAAF Diamond League Athletics Weltklasse meeting in Zurich on August 24, 2017.
CAPE TOWN - South Africa’s world long jump champion Luvo Manyonga and 800m champion Caster Semenya ended their seasons unbeaten with two sparkling performances at the Weltklasse meeting in Zurich, Switzerland on Thursday night.
Manyonga won the long jump with a leap of 8.49 metres on his fourth jump, one centimetre further than his world championships winning distance in London earlier this month.
And joining him on the podium again, just like in London, was compatriot Ruswahl Samaai. Only this time the South African’s medal was silver and not bronze.
Samaai leapt to an 8.31m best on the night with his penultimate leap. Sadly there was to be no SA clean-sweep of the podium as 2008 Olympics silver medallist Khotso Mokoena ended ninth and last with a 7.13 best.
South Africa's Luvo Manyonga leaps into the air during the men's long jump during the IAAF Diamond League Athletics Weltklasse meeting in Zurich on August 24, 2017. Credit: AFP
In the women’s two-lapper Semenya again reigned supreme with a 1min 55.84sec.
A first-lap of 56sec had been requested by the big guns and the bell came in 56.50 with Semenya her normal lurking self in fifth spot.
On this occasion though she unleashed her powerful finishing effort a fair bit earlier than normal.
It wasn’t strong enough to get near the personal best 1:55.16 she ran in London but the 1:55.84 end result was still enough to carry her almost a second clear of Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba (1:56.71) and Kenya’s Margaret Wambui, who ran a personal best 1:56.87 for third and a repeat of the Rio Olympics podium placing last year.
Manyonga and Semenya were both crowned Diamond Race champions in their events with the final meaning a healthy US$50,0000 addition to their bank balances.
Those were the ‘only’ victories for the eight-strong South African contingent.
The 400m hurdles duo of Wenda Nel and LJ van Zyl got things underway with Nel taking sixth in a time of 55.86 behind Czech Republic’s Zuzana Hejnova who won in 54.13.
Then it was Van Zyl who ran to seventh in 49.92sec, the three-time Olympian once again adding to his impressive list of sub-50sec finishes as British Virgin Islands athlete Kyron McMaster won in an impressive 48.07.
‘That felt like a “long” 400m,’ Van Zyl told the Team SA website after his race. ‘Now I’ve just got Tuesday’s meeting in Zagreb, Croatia to go.’
Only SA sprinter in action was Olympic and World Championships finalist Akani Simbine.
But the Pretoria sprinter was never in the mix as he ended sixth in 10.10sec with Britain’s Chijindu Utah dipping under 10sec to win from Ivory Coast’s Ben Maite, both being afforded the same time of 9.97.
The final action of the night saw Pieter Conradie in the men’s one-lapper, and event which saw a large hole left with the absence of compatriot Wayde van Niekerk, who pulled out last week with a back injury.
Conradie, who was just a few days ago, part of the SA team at World Student Games in Taiwan, trailed in last with a 46.45sec finish but there was still gold for Africa as Isaac Makwala won in 43.95, an impressive time by the Botswana athlete.
The race was robbed of a potentially explosive finish by the bizarre sight of Bahamian Steven Gardiner falling flat on his face out of the starting blocks and the World Championships silver medallist never picking himself up to complete the event.