JOHANNESBURG – South Africa will have a host of athletes representing Africa at the IAAF Continental Cup in Ostrava, Czech Republic, at the weekend, spearheaded by Caster Semenya.
Semenya will line up in the 400, 800 and 4x400m relay but she should not expect an easy ride in her final hurrah for 2018.
The SA track queen has been an absolute revelation this year when she has excelled in every distance from 400 to 1500m.
Semenya and perennial challenger Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi are expected to dominate the 800m as they go from fierce competitors to teammates for Africa.
The duo have dominated the two-lap event since the 2016 Rio Olympics, where they were first and second respectively.
The South African has a minuscule chance of letting her grip on the 800m slip as she looks to keep her undefeated run of three years intact. Semenya has not lost a race since 2015 when she finished eighth in the two-lap race in Berlin.
The South African is in awesome form despite a long season which started in February.
She set a new SA record of one minute 54.25 seconds at the Paris Diamond League meeting in July, the fourth fastest of all time.
While the SA phenomenon has dominated the 800m, she should expect a battle in the one-lap sprint, where she goes up against Nigeria-born world silver medallist Salwa Eid Naser of Qatar, who boasts the Asian record of 49.08sec.
Semenya clocked a new SA record when racing to an African title in 49.96sec in Nigeria last month.
South Africa will have a 20-strong contingent at the Continental Cup which features teams from Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia-Pacific.
The event will be held for the fourth time since it was first hosted in Johannesburg in 1998 and is the successor to the IAAF World Cup.
SA 100m record holder Akani Simbine will be looking to add another major title to his name to draw the curtain on a successful season. He may not have clocked the fastest times this season but he has the African and Commonwealth Games titles to show for his efforts.
African long jump champion Ruswahl Samaai will be Africa’s biggest hope in the sandpit after he beat world gold medallist Luvo Manyonga at the continental championships.
Cornel Fredericks lines up in the 400m hurdles looking to defend his title as one of only three South Africans to have won individual Continental Cup titles.
Pole vault legend Okkert Brits and two-time world high jump champ Hestrie Cloete won gold at Athens 2006. World 400m record holder Wayde van Niekerk won gold as part of a 4x400m relay team four years ago.@jacq_west