By Mark Etheridge
It was a case of different day but the same result as Caster Semenya led an Olympic 1-2-3 home in the Diamond League meeting in Zurich, Switzerland on Thursday night.
Crowned Olympic 800m champion just 11 days ago, Semenya ran with Swiss precision to clock a winning time of 1min 56.44sec for the two-lap affair.
Behind here were Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba and Kenya’s Margaret Wambui in 1:56.76 and 1:57.04 respectively… in the same order as in Rio.
Semenya, whose 1:55.28 in Rio was the fastest time in the world for 22 years, was drawn alongside Lindsey Sharp, one of her most outspoken critics before the Olympics, but the Brit ended up 11th on the night as Semenya picked up $40,000 for taking the Diamond Race title after a season’s hard racing.
Twelve athletes started the race but Semenya made sure she was always out of trouble and although the starter went off at a suicidal pace the halfway mark was still reached in 55.37, just outside the requested 55sec pace.
Try as they might Niyonsabi and Wambui and home town favourite Selina Buchel weren’t able to shake the South African and her superior finishing speed carried her clear.
Earlier it was Semenya’s fellow Olympian Wenda Theron who ended fourth in the 400m hurdles in 44.15 behind American Shamier Little (55.97). And yet another Olympic hurdler, LJ van Zyl, ran a great race to end third in the men’s 400m hurdles in 48.79sec.
Said coach Irma Reyneke, who coaches both hurdlers and was part of Team SA at the recent Olympics: ‘Wenda ran well tonight. She’s at the stage of her career where she’s running her best ever. In the last two years she’s run a lot more Diamond League races and that’s where one gets the experience.
‘I think she’s lying fourth or so in the standings and that’s an amazing feat. I think we’ll only see in the next year or so what two years of Diamond League experience means to her career.
‘As for LJ, he really ran beautifully tonight and it’s always a pleasure to watch him. He’s an unbelievable athlete, and has been for so many years. To finish third in the Diamond League series is just brilliant as well.’
Van Zyl said: ‘It was one of my nicest races of the year… I actually wasn’t in the race until the night before. I was on the waiting list and there was a late withdrawal.’
In the last race with South African participation it was Olympic 100m finalist Akani Simbine who chased Asafa Powell all the way to the line to end with 9.99 as the Jamaican ran his 98th legal sub 10sec 100m event.
Picture of Semenya courtesy of AFP/Getty Images