Reaping a good set of big-name scalps, Akani Simbine grabbed a confidence-boosting victory on Friday night to become the first South African to win the 100m at a Diamond League meeting in Doha.
The South African speedster beat a quality field which included Olympic podium finishers Justin Gatlin of the United States and Canadian Andre de Grasse despite a sluggish start.
Running into a headwind of 1.2 metres per second, Simbine dipped first, well ahead of the rest of the field in time of 9.99 seconds for his sixth sub-10 second time of the season.
Former Jamaican world record-holder Asafa Powell followed behind him in a season’s best of 10.08 with Qatar’s Femi Ogunode rounding off the podium in 10.13.
“First race of the season, and looking forward to the World Champs, I’m happy with my shape now, just to come up here and set a motivation for the rest of the season is what I was hoping for,” Simbine told the Diamond League website.
Looking to stamp his authority down ahead of the IAAF World Championships in London in August, it was the perfect start to Simbine’s international campaign.
Boasting the second fastest time in the world with the 9.92secs he clocked in Pretoria in March, he will be looking to continue his superb early season form.
A stealthily deadly Caster Semenya made a serious statement of intent on her first international outing of the season posting world lead of one minute, 56.61 seconds (1:56.61) to beat a quality field.
In a race that included Rio Olympics bronze medalist Margaret Wambui of Kenya and Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba, who is the reigning 1500 metres World Champion and Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist, Semenya once again she was in a class of her own.
Patiently biding her time in the middle of the field going through the first lap, Semenya pounced going into the final bend as she floated to victory in a new meeting record.
Wambui followed behind in second place clocking 1:57.03 with her countrywoman Eunice Sum bagging the bronze in 1:58.76.
“The race was fantastic, I'm looking forward to having great races, my only concern now is to finish my studies,” Semenya told the Diamond League website.
“I'm left with two semesters, so need to graduate and get my focus back on the track.”
Managing expectations ahead of the race, Semenya’s coach Jean Verster cautioned that his star athlete was not in tip-top shape.
This should serve as a serious warning that the South African sensation could make a serious assault on the dust-gathered world 800m record.
It was an overall good night for South Africa’s four-member contingent in Qatar with national 400m hurdles record-holder LJ van Zyl finishing third in a time off 49.49secs with compatriot Cornel Frederick clocking 49.96secs for fifth place.
Qatar’s star athlete Samba Abderrahaman, who is mentored by South African coach Hennie Kotze won the one-lap hurdles race with a time of 48.44secs with Clement Kerron finishing second in 49.40.