Prudence Sekgodiso takes next step to Paris Olympics in Nancy race

Prudence Sekgodiso stared in disbelief at the big screen in Marrakech last Sunday after setting a new world lead in the 800m. Photo: EPA

Prudence Sekgodiso stared in disbelief at the big screen in Marrakech last Sunday after setting a new world lead in the 800m. Photo: EPA

Published May 26, 2024


She captured the world’s attention with the fastest time in 2024 last week, and now South African star Prudence Sekgodiso will look to back it up with another strong performance on Saturday night.

The 22-year-old 800m athlete produced the finest run of her career as she clocked 1:57.26 to set a new world lead and clinch her maiden Diamond League victory in Marrakech, Morocco last Sunday.

In what was a measured display, Sekgodiso stayed among the lead group without going to the front for most of the race.

But the Tuks Sport athlete timed her charge to perfection on the home straight as she outlasted Ethiopian Habitam Alemu, who finished second in 1:57.70.

It was a new personal best for Sekgodiso as well, eclipsing her previous mark of 1:58.05, set in Pretoria in March, and placed her second in South African history behind national record-holder and two-time Olympic champion Caster Semenya’s incredible 1:54.25.

It is all about being at her best at the Paris Olympics, though, so Sekgodiso will aim to increase her confidence with another solid time at Saturday night’s Meeting Stanislas Nancy in north-eastern France – about 327km east of Paris.

While she is the clear favourite in the field due to her status as the world lead holder and the only athlete who has run below 1:58.00, Sekgodiso will have the meeting record of 1:58.04 – set by Kenya’s Emily Cherotich Tuei in 2018 – in her sights.

Her main competition is likely to come from Nelly Jepkosgei of Bahrain, who posted her personal best of 1:58.93 in Nairobi in April, and Swiss athlete Rachel Pellaud, who ran her fastest time of 1:59.40 last year.

It will be interesting for Sekgodiso – who will compete in the Stockholm Diamond League on June 2 and then do the 1 500m at the African championships in Cameroon later next month – to compare her time to that of the world’s top performers last season who will be running in the Diamond League Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon tonight as well.

Her effort in Marrakech on Sunday would have been the fifth-fastest in the world last year, behind American Athing Mu (1:54.97), Britain’s Keely Hodgkinson (1:55.19), Jamaica’s Natoya Goule-Toppin (1:55.96) and Kenya’s Mary Moraa (1:56.03).

Hodgkinson, Goule-Toppin, Moraa, top Ugandan Halimah Nakaayi (1:57.56) and Ethiopian Tsige Duguma (1:57.56) will all be in action at the Diamond League race in Oregon tonight.

Sekgodiso won’t be the only South African competing in Nancy on Saturday evening. Her teammate from coach Samuel Sepeng’s training group, Tshepo Tshite, will be pushing hard for yet another solid 1500m performance after finishing eighth in Marrakech last Sunday in a time of 3:35.21.

Tshite has a personal best of 3:32.68, and has run 3:33.76 this year, and will hope to get close to Johan Cronjé’s 11-year-old SA record of 3:31.93 in Nancy tonight.

There are four other athletes in the line-up who have breached the 3:32.00 barrier – Ethiopia’s Teddese Lemi (3:31.90), France’s Baptiste Mischler (3:32.42), Charles Grethen of Luxembourg (3:32.86) and Canada’s Charles Philibert Thiboutot (3:32.94) – so Tshite will be banking on a quick race instead of a tactical one to set a new national mark.

Zakithi Nene and Gardeo Isaacs will be setting off in the men’s 400m in Nancy, with Nene the fastest in the field this year with his 2024 best of 44.80.

Tsebo Matsoso will be lining up in the men’s 100m, while Cheswill Johnson is the only SA field athlete in the men’s long jump.