Caster Semenya lifted herself to unprecedented levels when she shattered the national 400m record at the African Athletics Championships in Asaba, Nigeria on Friday.
The track phenom chopped 0.09 seconds off the record Heide Seyerling set in Sydney in 2000, and now boasts the South African 400m, 800m and 1 500m records.
She became the first woman in history to dip below 50 seconds, two minutes and four minutes in the 400m, 800m, and 1 500m respectively.
“It has always been the dream to go sub-50 seconds, and I thought it was the right time,” Semenya said.
“It is always about having fun and waiting for the right moment to execute and have a good race.”
Semenya knocked 0.44 off the previous best she ran in Brussels back in 2016. The South African has been trying to achieve the incredible trifecta since 2016.
She made her first steps to realising this when she dipped below the four-minute mark in the metric mile at the Doha Diamond League meeting in May, clocking three minutes, 59.92 seconds.
Semenya, who is eyeing a 400m-800m double gold, has been an absolute dominant force in her specialist two-lap event, dipping below 1:55 twice this season.
She posted the fourth fastest time of all time at the Paris Diamond League meeting in July, clocking a new national record of 1:54.25.
Her start in the one-lap sprint left a lot to be desired in the past, but this was not a problem in Nigeria yesterday. Botswana’s Christine Botlogetswe finished behind her in 51.19, with Ajayi Yinka of Nigeria bagging bronze in 51.34.
“I had to focus on my start, maintain through halfway and see what I could produce over the last 150 metres,” Semenya said.
“When you are a middle-distance runner like me, you try to spice up the pace.”
Her time in the 400m is an ominous sign of what is still to come in the 800m, whether at the African Championships or later in the season.
In other events, the men’s 4x100m relay quartet of Akani Simbine, Emile Erasmus, Simon Magakwe and Henricho Bruintjies defended the title they won two years ago in South Africa.
Running a superb anchor leg, African 100m champion Simbine crossed the line in 38.25 seconds, just 0.01 short of the national record that was set at the Commonwealth Games in April.
African 4*100m champions pic.twitter.com/mjbcuXoYUG
Thapelo Phora won a second 400m medal for South Africa, finishing second in the men’s final with a new personal best of 45.14, with Baboleki Thebe of Botswana winning in 44.81.
Former African champion Cornel Fredericks also added to the tally, winning silver in his specialist 400m hurdles event.
South Africa won three more medals in the field events, with high jump ace Chris Moleya bagging silver in his specialist event with 2.26m.
Compatriot Mpho Links clinched the bronze after clearing the bar at 2.15m.
Lynique Beneke won bronze in the women’s long jump with a best effort of 6.38m, with Nigeria’s Brume Ese claiming the title with 6.80m.
Female discus thrower Ische Senekal got her championships off to a good start, winning the bronze with a heave of 53.82m, with Onyekwere Choma of Nigeria winning with 58.09m.
There was more joy in the decathlon, as Fredriech Pretorius took the silver with a total of 7 733 points.
Team South Africa now have a total of 17 medals (five gold, seven silver and five bronze) and top the overall standings.