Led by Caster Semenya, South Africa produced another dominant performance on Friday’s third day of the 21st CAA African Senior Championships, raking in another nine medals as they extended their lead at the top of the overall table in Asaba, Nigeria.
Semenya again showed her class by smashing the South African record in the 400m final, storming across the line in 49.96sec to become the first SA woman to dip under 50 seconds in the one-lap dash.
She broke the previous mark held by Heide Seyerling, which had stood for nearly 18 years.
‘It’s always been my dream to run under 50, and I think it was the right time. The conditions suited me,’ said Semenya, who was nearly a full second ahead of her nearest opponent. ‘For me, it’s always about having fun and waiting for the right time to execute.’
Semenya is set to compete again in the 800m and 4x400m relay events on Saturday and Sunday.
The national squad relay took no prisoners in the 4x100m relay, charging home in 38.25sec, with Commonwealth 100m champion Akani Simbine, Simon Magakwe, Emile Erasmus and Commonwealth silver medallist Henricho Bruintjies missing the SA record by just 0.01.
‘The more we believe in each other, the better we become,’ Bruintjies said. ‘This is an individual sport but by coming together as a team there are more medals up for grabs, and I think we’re all understanding that now and showing up for the relays.’
Delivering a medal double, high jumper Chris Moleya bagged silver after clearing 2.26m to equal his personal best, and Mpho Links also stepped on the podium, with his best attempt of 2.15m earning him the bronze.
In other disciplines, Thapelo Phora set a personal best of 45.14sec to grab the silver medal in the men’s 400m final and Fredriech Pretorius finished second in the decathlon with 7,733 points.
‘I had a slow start so I had to push hard to catch up, but my aim was to make the top two to be in the team for the IAAF Continental Cup, so I’m very happy,’ Phora said.
Cornel Fredericks (pictured below) also took silver in the 400m hurdles final, capping a superb comeback from injury troubles after a lengthy absence from the national team.
‘Today was satisfying because it’s the first time I’ve represented South Africa since 2016 and it’s always an honour to run for the national team,’ Fredericks said. ‘The time wasn’t as fast as I expected but I’m happy with second place.’
Ischke Senekal earned bronze in the women’s discus with a best heave of 53.82m, with compatriots Riette Heyns (52.41m) and Yolandi Stander (48.35) ending fourth and sixth, respectively.
Long jump star Lynique Beneke also took bronze in her specialist discipline with a 6.38m leap, while Zinzi Chabangu took fourth position (6.14m).
The SA women’s 4x100m relay team narrowly missed out on a medal, finishing fourth in 49.63sec, just 0.05 seconds outside a podium place. Siboniso Soldaka struggled in humid conditions in the 3,000m steeplechase, settling for 11th place in 9min 0.87sec.
With two days of competition left, South Africa have a total of 17 medals in the bag: five gold, seven silver and five bronze.
Photo: Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Image