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 Diamond League meeting in Zurich, Switzerland, on Thursday night, writes MARK ETHERIDGE.
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 Moekoena ended ninth and last with a 7.13 best.
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$50,000 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 under way, with Nel taking sixth in a time of 55.86 behind Czech Republic’s Zuzana Hejnova, who won in 54.13 in a non-Diamond Race event.
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.
Final action of the night saw Pieter Conradie in the men’s one-lapper, an 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 part of the SA team at the World Student Games in Taiwan just a few days ago, 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 for 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 picked himself up to complete the event.
Picture of a celebrating Manyonga and Semenya with her trophy courtesy of Fabrice Coffrini and Robert Hradil/AFP/Getty Images
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