CAPE TOWN – It wasn’t quite a new South African record or personal best, but Caster Semenya took charge from the start to set a new 800m meeting record at the Monaco Diamond League on Friday night.
Semenya normally looks to sit in behind a pacemaker or another athlete at the front, but perhaps in an attempt to break her SA mark of 1:54.25, which she ran in Paris on June 30, she went to the front immediately.
Her current best was the fourth fastest time in history, and she was determined to go even quicker on the fast track at the Stade Louis II in Monaco on Friday night.
Semenya sped into the lead and was chased by long-time rival Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi.
The 27-year-old completed the first lap in 55.76, but despite racing away from Niyonsaba and the rest of the field, the Olympic champion wasn’t able to maintain her speed from the first lap.
She took 58.85 for the second 400m to win in a time of 1.54.60 – still a superb time and better than her previous Monaco meeting mark of 1.55.27 from last year.
55.7 seconds through the first 400m for @caster800m. 1m25.4 through 600m...
... 1:54.60 for the South African and a NEW MEETING RECORD!#DiamondLeague #RoadToTheFinal #MonacoDL pic.twitter.com/AYYqCjK2vf
The world record of 1:53.28, by Jarmila Kratochvilova in 1983, remains elusive, but Semenya would’ve been delighted with her effort on the night.
She has run 1 500m races and even a 1 000m in recent weeks, but will hope to claim the 800m world record at the African Championships in Asaba, Nigeria from August 1-5.
Other South Africans who competed in Monaco on the night were sprinters Luxolo Adams and Carina Horn.
SA 100m record holder Horn didn’t quite get going, and ended seventh in 11.21, with Ivorian star Marie-Josée Ta Lou winning in a quick 10.89.
Adams also finished in seventh position in the 200m, where he ran 20.65 in a race won by new American sensation Noah Lyles in a blistering 19.65, which was a new personal best, meeting record and world lead for this year.