PRETORIA - American Justin Gatlin was gracious in defeat when he was beaten by Anaso Jobodwana in the 150m race at the Athletix Grand Prix series at the Tuks Athletics Stadium on Thursday night.
Jobodwana started celebrating 20 metres before the line, knowing that he had claimed one of the biggest victories of his career in a time of 15.08, seconds ahead of Roscoe Engel (15.17) and with Luxolo Adams rounding out the top three (15.18).
Gatlin had to settle for fourth (15.23), but that did not stop the American from spending time with the crowd and posing for endless pictures.
“It’s all about the fans,” said Gatlin. “They are the reason why we race."
Gatlin was full of praise for Jobodwana.
“He ran a great race and it is good to see him running so well again. Next time I hope to come through earlier, I did feel a bit jet-lagged. So my coach told me to focus on my first 100m and see how I best finish the last 50m.
"I still felt I would win with 30m to go, but the legs came off. I usually open in May, so this was a bit early for me. But overall I am happy.”
Jobodwana had just become a father the day before.
“Before the race I was just thinking about the last two years (he had struggled with injuries), my wife in America and my son being born," Jobodwana said.
"All that gave me the power to execute and run my race. I am very happy, as I am almost back to where I was.”
The second meeting of the Grand Prix series saw Caster Semenya win the 1 000m women’s race in a new SA record.
Semenya broke the 35-year-old record of Ilse De Kock Wicksel, crossing the line in 2:35.43. Wicksel’s record was 2:37.0, run in 1983.
“That was a good race for me. I know where I am in my training now and I am on track for what I want to achieve.”
Ruswahl Samaai was too strong in the men’s Long Jump with a leap of 8.24m. Isaac Makwala had targeted a sub 31sec 300m, but had to settle for a 31.77 win over Thapela Phora (32.57) and Ofentse Mogawane (32.68).
Akani Simbine lived up to his billing as the fastest man in South Africa, opening his 2018 season with a 10.05 win in the 100 metres.
“I am happy with the win. I made sure that I focused on the first 60m and I executed that well. It is important to me to do that.
"Everything is going well in my group and I’m looking forward to the season.”
The third and final Athletix Grand Prix Series Meeting takes place in Paarl at the Dal Josaphat Stadium on Thursday, March 22.
African News Agency (ANA)