PARIS, France - South African middle-distance queen Caster Semenya edged closer to the continental record, rocketing herself to fourth place on the 800 metre world all-time list at the Paris Diamond League meeting.
She smashed her South African record, clocking one minute, 54.25 seconds (1:54.25) and stopping the clock just 0.24s short of Kenyan Pamela Jelimo's African record. Semenya followed a new tactic, surging with 300 metres to go instead of putting the foot down half-way to the finish.
It ultimately payed off as Burundi's Francine Niyonsaba tried to hold on for dear life to no avail. Semenya chopped nearly a second off her previous record with Niyonsaba following in 1:55.86. American Kajee Wilson finished third in 1:57.11. It edges Semnya closer to Czech athlete Jarmila Kratochvilova’s world record of 1:53.28 from 1983.
Rounding off the evening South African 100m record holder Akani Simbine posted a season's best of 9.94 seconds for fourth place in the men's final. Ronnie Baker of the United States claimed victory in a world lead of 9.88.
It was a red letter day for South African coach Hennie Kotzé with his Qatari athlete Abderrahman Samba clocking the secomd fastest 400m hurdles time of all time of 46.98 seconds. Kotzé, who coached South African record-holder LJ van Zyl and 2014 Commonwealth Games champion Cornel Fredericks, converted Samba from a flat 400m athlete to one of the greatest one-man hurdlers.
Commanding, unstoppable, dominant. Words struggle to describe @caster800m 🇿🇦 this season as she lowers her own WL to 1:54.25 DLR, MR, NR, PB!#ParisDL #DiamondLeague #RoadToTheFinal pic.twitter.com/phNsu3QnAV
Samba stopped the clock just 0.20s short of American Kevin Young's world record from Barcelona 1992. National 110m record holder Antonio Alkana seems to be hitting form at the right time, clocking a season's best in the heats finishing third in his race with 13.31. He was given a warning in the final with Russian athlete Sergey Shubenkov receiving a red card after the reset. Alkana clipped s few hurdles crossing the line in 13.32 with Jamaican Ronald Levy winning in 13.18.
South African short sprinters Henricho Bruintjies and Thando Roto featured earlier in the 100m B-final earlier in the evening. Bruintjies brushed off flu symptoms to finish third with a time of 10.15 seconds with Roto following in sixth place with a time of 10.23.
Half-lap sprinting specialist Luxolo Adams features missed out on a medal in the non-Diamond 200m event finishing in fourth place with a time of 20.21. Rising American star Michael Norman was the eventual winner after two false starts delayd the race winning with a new personal best of 19.84.
The 20-year-old has now joined an exclusive club of athletes who have dipped below 20 seconds in the 200m and 44 seconds in the one-lap sprint. "I had a bit of flu, that is not an excuse but for me to come out here after the way I was feeling and still tun a 10.15 is really good," Bruintjies said. "This is an indication that I am in form and shows that they must select me for the African Championships and I'd they have to they can have another SA champs."
Bruintjies missed out on selection for his specialist 100m event with Simbine, seven-time champion Simon Magakwe and Roscoe Engel making the team ahead of him. It appears Athletics SA (ASA) had selected athletes based on their rankings this season with some of the times based on performance in March.