Semenya, Manyonga, Van Der Walt shine at SA Champs

Caster Semenya (Gallo)
Caster Semenya (Gallo)

Cape Town - Superb performances were produced again on Saturday, as the nation's elite stars and rising prospects delivered in front of a lively crowd on the third and final day of the South African Track and Field Championships, held at Tuks Athletics Stadium in Tshwane.

World champion Caster Semenya displayed her fine form once more, charging to a commanding victory in the 800m Women final.

She stopped the clock at 1:57.80 for her quickest ever time on home soil, securing the 800m/1 500m double and offered a glimpse of what can be expected from her at sea level ahead of her 1 500m race at the final leg Meeting of the Liquid Telecom Athletix Grand Prix Series in Paarl next week.

"It's a great time. Obviously we always want to experience something new," Semenya said. "We need to try and run the same pace at home that we run in the European season. We're doing this for our people, and it's all about growing South African athletics."

Another global champion, Luvo Manyonga, catapulted himself 8.41m across the sand pit to win gold in the Long Jump Men, 20 centimetres clear of IAAF World Championships bronze medallist Ruswahl Samaai.

"I feel great, and happy to compete in front of a South African crowd," Manyonga said. "I'm happy with my performance today and it's my first outdoor (meeting of the season), so I'm excited for more competition."

Meanwhile, 17-year-old world youth champion Zeney van der Walt stunned the crowd by grabbing the silver medal in the 400m Men Hurdles final.

In a gutsy performance, she was edged out by Wenda Nel, who won gold in 55.01 seconds. Van der Walt held on for second place in 55.05*, breaking the SA Junior record of 55.74 set by Myrtle Bothma in Bloemfontein in April 1983.

"I just ran my own race and focussed on my own 10 hurdles," Van der Walt said. "This gives me a lot of confidence, and now I know I can reach my sub-55 goal."

Sprinter Justine Palframan won the 200m Women (22.97) and 400m (51.31) titles just 45 minutes apart.

"It's not what I expected. Going into the 400m I tried not to be negative because my body was feeling a bit tired," Palframan said. "When I crossed the line and saw '51', I had to look twice. "There's no way to explain it. I'm very excited."

In other events, Luxolo Adams won the 200m Men final in 20.08 after new national record holder Clarence Munyai withdrew and Lindsay Hanekom took the 400m Men Hurdles in 49.17, dragging five men under the 50-second barrier.

In the morning session, Wayne Snyman won the 20km Men Race Walk in 1:24:58 in cold and wet conditions, in the absence of SA record holder Lebogang Shange who withdrew from the event for personal reasons.

“What a wonderfull week for South African athletics! We are very proud our athletes who produced outstanding and high level performances which has seen several SA records broken and the making of new champions including the emergence of young superstars,” said Aleck Skhosana, the President of ASA.”

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