JOHANNESBURG – Caster Semenya raced to her first major 1500m title smashing Zola Budd’s 34-year-old national record at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games on Tuesday afternoon.
She ran a beautifully composed race learning from her performance at last year’s IAAF World Championships where she won the bronze medal in the three-and-three-quarter lap event.
Quietly biding her time within striking distance of Kenya’s Beatrice Chepkoech, who took the lead out with Semenya ominously lurking a few metres behind her.
Semenya was among the top three runners through the bell but bided her time before producing her characteristic kick with 200 metres to go.
The three-time world 800m champion move clear of the rest of the field as she looked determined over the final stretch to cross the line in a new South African record of 4:00.71.
She knocked a second off the mark Budd set in Port Elizabeth in March 1984 to break one of the longest standing records in South African track and field.
“I knew at the at 800 metres because the time was 2:08, I knew I must just wait, wait and move at the last 250 metres because I don’t want to mess up my fellow Africans’ race,” Semenya said. “I actually knew from the last lap that the record was gone, and I just needed to maintain the pace.”
Chepkoech crossed the line nearly three seconds later with a new personal best of 4:03.09 with Melissa Courtney rounding off the podium in third place with a new PB of 4:03.44.
Semenya has been running at the front in all her races ahead of the Games where she was looking to run the perfect splits with an eye on the 1500m race.
“It is all about what we do in training, we try to train fast and slow pace so that we can be able to master any pace,” Semenya said. “At the moment I think we are doing well in training and that is how we are able to do this, now we can read splits, manage pace for a long time.”
During the early hours of Tuesday, South Africa’s two prospective double-doubles in the long jump and the 200m advanced to the final and semi-finals respectively.
Long jump double act Ruswahl Samaai and Luvo Manyonga made easy work of the qualifying round.
World champion Manyonga landed one jump of 7.91m to earn his place in the final with Samaai also booked his place with a single attempt of 8.06m.
Half-lap sprint specialists Anaso Jobdwana and Clarence Munyai, who will be looking to follow up on Akani Simbine and Henricho Bruintjies’ 100m gold-silver double, coasted through to the semi-final.
South African 200m record-holder Clarence Munyai trotted over the line in 20.95 seconds to win his heat with 2015 world bronze medallist Anaso Jobodwana also earning his spot topping his heat with a time of 20.89.
“I just wanted to get through the round, that is why I was looking around, I did something stupid in coming here and so my hamstring was feeling a bit tight,” Jobodwana said. “That is why I didn’t want to do more than I need to do so that I can save my body for the semi-final when I can actually push it. That is what you do in the heat figuring out where everybody is.”
Jobodwana did not feel any tightness during the race while Clarence said he also took it easy with an eye on pushing it hard in the semi-final.
“The semi-final is of course where I will kind of have to run fast…it felt really easy and cruise control all the way,” Munyai said.
Top female 400m hurdler Wenda Nel clocked a season’s best of 54.61 automatically qualifying for her final on Thursday.