Semenya 4:01.99, Thebe 44.69
DURBAN (RSA, Jun 24): South Africa’s Caster Semenya and Botswana’s Baboloki Thebe made the biggest impression on the third day of the African championships. Caster Semenya started the competition with a win in the 1500m, in 4:01.99 PB, the second fastest time ever by a South African after Zola Budd (4:01.81). She was followed by Morocco’s Rabab Arafi in 4:03.95. Baboloki Thebe who switched from the shorter sprints to the 400m confirmed his great talent at sea level one month after his African junior record of 44.22 set at altitude in Gaborone on May 21. He claimed victory in 44.69 ahead of teammate Karabo Sibanda (45.42) and US-based Nigerian Chidi Okezie (45.76) who denied Botswana’s a full sweep as Isaac Makwala faded to 4th (46.58). There was second gold for Botswana as Nijel Amos made his way to victory in the 800m in 1:45.11 following a few weeks marred by illness and a hamstring problem. Behind him, South African Jacob Rozani clocked an Olympic qualifier of 1:45.38. Kenya claimed medals in the 400m hurdles, gold for Boniface Mucheru in 49.21 and bronze for Nicholas Bett’s brother Haron Koech in 49.41, the same time as silver medallist Amadou Ndiaye of Senegal. Local star LJ van Zyl was only fourth in 49.46. Kenya also won the high jump through Mathew Sawe (2.21m) a first in the history of the championships, but was denied victory in the 3000m steeplechase dominated by Ethiopian Chala Beyo (8:21.02) and Gigsa Tolosa 8:22.79. After her silver medal in 2014, and the All-African Games title in 2015, Zambia’s Kabange Mupopo claimed the African title in the women’s event, the only athlete in the race to finish in a sub-52 (51.56). Two Nigerian athletes won the women’s field events, Ese Brume in the long jump (6.57m) and Nwanneka Okwelogu the discus (56.75m). The day ended with loud cheers from the crowd as South Africa shone in the 4x100m relays claiming both titles, the women’s in 43.66 and the men’s in 38.84, as Akani Simbine held off 100m champion Ben Youssef Meite of Ivory Coast (38.98) in the last meters.
Larry Eder opines: Per CAS decision last week, Caster Semenya will have a focus on her that is not disimilar to her experience in Berlin in 2009. This is not fair, but complicated matters were decided with antiquated information. Caster Semenya is a fine athlete, and she will be nearly unbeatable over 800 meters, but will have some challenges over 1,500 meters.