Caster Semenya and Akani Simbine were among the athletes that shone on the opening day of South African athletics’ Nationals, a week after swimming held theirs.
The athletics is being staged at the University of Pretoria where a strong tailwind of 2.8m/s denying Simbine’s scorching 100m time of 9.82sec being ratified as a South African record.
Still, it showed him to be in great shape as he gears up his preparations towards the Tokyo Olympics, which is set to get under way in 98 days time.
Simbine, fifth in the Rio 2016 Olympic final, breezed through the morning heats in 10.11 before stopping the clock at a world-leading 9.82 in the semi-final. But the strong wind put paid to those hopes, although he gets another chance to do something special in the final.
Semenya retained her national 5 000m crown winning in 15:52.28‚ which is not far off the 15:10.00 automatic qualifying mark for the Olympics.
Semenya has given up on the 800m‚ where she won two Olympic golds in 2012 and 2016‚ as well as the 400m and 1 500m because of the World Athletics regulations which require athletes with differences of sex development competing in those events to take medication to lower their naturally occurring high testosterone.
Elsewhere, Wenda Nel was 0.18 too slow to qualify in the 400m hurdles for Tokyo, but she is not fazed about it as it is her best race in three years.
The Tuks-hurdler won her heat in 55.58, a dress rehearsal for Saturday’s final. The former double world champion, Zeney van der Walt, was second in 56.33 and Taylon Bieldt third in 56.65. The Olympic qualifying standard is 55.40.
It is a given that one of the three will win the gold medal. Van der Walt is the defending South African women’s 400m hurdles champion, while Nel has eight national titles to her name. Bieldt is the upstart. She has beaten them both this season.