Semenya takes gold for SA to end African Champs

Caster Semenya (Gallo Images)
Caster Semenya (Gallo Images)

Durban - Caster Semenya strolled to a second title, and then blasted to her third title in the space of two days, as the five-day African Athletics Championships wrapped up in Durban on Sunday.

After an impressive 1500-metre win on Friday, Semenya was again in a class of her own as she won 800-metre gold in 1 minute 58.20 seconds. She was more than two seconds clear of runner-up Malika Akkaoui of Kenya (2:00.24).

The 2009 world champion and 2012 Olympic silver medallist said afterwards, "I’m a bit overwhelmed, I felt fantastic after this win and as always, I’m doing it for my people.

"This win is all about teamwork and is about communication and not commands,’ she said of the relationship between her and coach Jean Verster and training partner Samuel Sepeng."

Around an hour after her 800m win, Semenya teamed up with Jeanelle Griessel, Wenda Nel and Justine Palframan for gold in the women’s 4x400m relay with an impressive SA record time of 3:28.49.

They started on the backfoot but first Nel, then especially Palframan, made up ground and Semenya moved into second on the final bend and then blasted past the Nigerian front-runner with about 70m to go.

Jeanelle Griesel, Caster Semenya, Wenda Nel and Justine Palframan (Gallo Images)

Also earlier in action, Nel won the women’s 400m hurdles in 54.86 from Kenya’s Maureen Jelegat (56.12). Youth Olympics silver medallist Gezelle Magerman was sixth in 59.08.

"Yes, I’m happy with Wenda’s weekend," coach Irma Reyneke told Road to Rio 2016. "The plan for the Championships was always to go hard in the heats and final and then the 4x400m relay was excellent preparation on going through the rounds."

There was also gold in the men’s javelin for South Africa’s Phil-Mar van Rensburg with a 76.04 winning effort. "I wasn’t very happy with the distance and know I’ve got work to do. So I’ll take the win.

"I’ve battled a bit with injuries this season but the competition was great here in Durban," van Rensburg told Road to Rio 2016.

Van Rensburg has a personal and season’s best of 78.88 thrown at nationals earlier this year. He travels through to Potchefstroom for two weeks in a year to train with Terseus Liebenberg.

"I’m not sure about going to Europe this season but I’m definitely aiming at World Champs next year," he added.

In the women’s 200m final it was silver for Alyssa Conley in 22.84, a sparkling personal best for her by 0.16 seconds and just 0.03 seconds behind Mari Ta Lou of Cote D’Ivoire.

Wayde van Niekerk made it a SA double gold in the 200m sprints when he won in 20.02 ahead of Adama Jammeh of Gambia (20.02). And Elroy Gelant galloped to silver in the men’s 5000m, ending in 13:15.13 behind Douglas Kipserem of Kenya (3:13.35) after just not having enough of a kick in the final straight.

The final day’s action had got into stride with the women’s and men’s 20km walk. One medal, a bronze, was the return as Lebogang Shange clocked 1:21:41.00 as Kenya’s Samuel Gathimba took gold in 1:19:24.00. Hard on his heels was Wayne Snyman in fourth (1:22:20.20).

In the women’s event, there was another fourth spot for Anel Oosthuizen in 1:38:46.00 as Grace Wanjiru won in 1:30:43.00.

Other medal success for South African came from triple jumper Patience Ntshingila, who leapt 13.24m for bronze as Ghana’s Nadia Eke won in 13.42m.

Spare a thought for multiple SA 1500m champion Johan Cronje who is still in search of a Rio qualifying time. After a fall in the heats he trailed home ninth in the final with a time of 3:45.26 as Morocco’s Fouad Kaam won in 3:39.49.

"No, it really wasn’t a good weekend at all. After that fall where I hurt my hip in heats... I convinced myself it won’t affect my final but when the guys accelerated I just couldn’t go along.

"I guess it’s back to Europe again but the hip is actually worse now after the final than before, so I really don’t know what to expect either,"said Cronje.

The five days of action ended with a final medal for South Africa in the men’s 4x400m relay as LJ van Zyl anchored the team to bronze in 3:04.73 as Botswana won in 3:02.20.

That medal saw South African’s final tally come to 33, made up of 16 gold, nine silver and eight bronze. That put them comfortably on top of the table from Kenya (24) and Nigeria (16).

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