National champion and record-holder Akani Simbine became the first South African to win a Diamond League 100-metre sprint when he beat an impressive field in Doha, Qatar on Friday evening.
Simbine once again dipped under the 10-second barrier, clocking 9.99sec in a field that included Olympic medallists Justin Gatlin and Andre de Grasse. However, neither was able to get on to the podium on Friday night as Asafa Powell took silver in 10.08sec and Qatar’s Femi Ogunode was third in 10.13.
He told the Diamond League website: ‘This was the first race of the season and I’m looking forward to the World Championships. I’m happy with my shape now, just to come up here and motivate myself for the rest of the season is what I was hoping for.”
There was another South African moment to savour as Rio Olympics gold medallist Caster Semenya opened her own Diamond League campaign in style with a meeting-record win in the 800m.
The two other South Africans doing duty in the first Diamond League meeting of the year were LJ van Zyl and Cornel Fredericks in the 400m hurdles.
Van Zyl grabbed bronze in 49:49 as he started from lane eight, while 2014 Commonwealth champion Fredericks was fifth, also dipping under the 50sec barrier in 49.99. The latter had missed last month’s national championships due to a niggling back injury.
Victory went to the host nation’s Abdulrahman Samba, who won in 48.44.
Van Zyl told the SASCOC website: ‘Tonight was great. I started very easily and then finished strongly. I was just carrying out instructions from coach Hennie Kriel. He wants to get a pattern in place to improve in every race and start my finish effort earlier.
‘So I’m running conservatively now and as the season progresses I’ll take more chances as I build up self-confidence.’ Van Zyl’s next race will be the next Diamond League in Shanghai, China this weekend.
Semenya was imperious in the two-lapper. Britain’s Jenny Meadows had taken the field through the first lap in 57.61sec and Semenya eased away on the final bend to win in 1:56.61, more than four seconds quicker than her previous season’s best of 2:00.91.
Kenya’s Margaret Wambui was second in 1:57.03 and Kenya’s Eunice Sum made it an an all-African podium by finishing third in 1:58.76.
World 1500m champion Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia made her 800m debut on the big stage and took fifth in 1:59.37.
Semenya told the IAAF website: ’The race was fantastic and the field is great. I’m looking forward to having great races; my only concern now is to finish my studies. I’m left with two semesters, so I need to graduate and get my focus back on the track.’
Picture of Simbine, Gatlin and Powell in Doha action courtesy of Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images
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