Cape Town – Luxolo Adams says he was “doubting himself”, but he ran the race of his life to set a new sub-20-second personal best and beat Olympic champion Andre de Grasse to win the 200m at the Paris Diamond League event on Saturday night.
The Eastern Cape athlete had a disappointing South African championships in Cape Town in April, where he finished fifth in a pedestrian 21.14.
But with a previous best time of 20.01, he has been threatening for years to break through the 20-second barrier, and he did in style at the Stade Sébastien Charléty with a winning effort of 19.82.
Adams’ 19.82 time is the second fastest in South African history – behind Clarence Munyai’s 19.69, eclipsing Wayde van Niekerk’s 19.84 – and the fourth fastest in the world in 2022.
Only three Americans have clocked quicker 200m times this year – Erriyon Knighton (19.49), Noah Lyles (19.61) and Fred Kerley (19.80).
Running in lane eight, Adams made a solid start over the first half of the race, but it was Amaury Golitin of France who was setting the pace.
Sporting a white headband, Golitin was in front at the end of the bend heading into the home straight, with fellow Frenchman Mouhamadou Fall in second and Adams third on the outside.
But with about 60 metres to go, Adams exploded into the lead with a surge from nowhere, and the 25-year-old kept going to the line and held off the fast-finishing Alexander Ogando of the Dominican Republic, who also ran a personal best and national record of 20.03.
Fall faded to third in 20.26, while De Grasse ended fourth with a season’s best 20.38.
“I managed to run the curve well and then, in the last 80m, I saw there was no one around. I kicked again. This race was character-building for me,” Adams told the Diamond League website afterwards.
“First of all, I was doubting myself… I did not believe I can go out and run against big names. I always got nervous and all of that.
“But I told myself, you know what, you have come so far, so you cannot give up now. I was trying my best to run sub-20, and it finally came today.”
Now it’s all about fine-tuning for the world championships in Eugene, Oregon in late July at his European training base in Italy.
“I am happy that I ran this time now. In my country, the closing day for qualification for the world champs is the 26th June, so it is a good timing, and the champs is just around the corner. I rest now and will take it from there,” Adams said.
Two other South Africans were also in action in Paris. Zakithi Nene ran a superb 400m race to post a sub-45-second time to finish third in 44.99, behind Olympic champion Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas (44.21) and the Dominican Republic’s Lidio Andres Feliz (44.92).
In the men’s 100m, Henricho Bruintjies took fifth position in 10.38 in a race won by Benjamin Azamati of Ghana (10.25).