Gold up for grabs for Caster and Luvo at Diamond League
Pair of world champions are strong favourites tonight: Semenya in the 800m, Manyongo in the long-jump
If Caster Semenya is going to break the women’s 800m world record this year, it’ll be at the Diamond League final in Zurich on Thursday night. She clocked the second-best time of her career in her last attempt, going 1min 54.60sec in Monaco in July.
Her manager, Jukka Härkönen, had been a little disappointed straight after that bid to break track and field’s longest-standing mark, the 1:53.26 mark set by Jarmila Kratochvílová in 1983. Semenya had consoled him with a, “we’ll get there”, and Härkönen replied: “In Zurich!”
Now is the time.
Semenya and long-jumper Luvo Manyonga are expected to pocket nearly R720,000 each in Switzerland. The pair of world champions spearhead a contingent of eight South Africans, but they are the only strong favourites for the $50,000 first prize on offer for each winner of an event finale.Manyonga is ranked No1 in the Diamond Race. With Cuban nemesis Juan Miguel Echevarria not on the start list, his toughest competition will come from countryman Ruswahl Samaai and Olympic champion Jeff Henderson, the only other men to have beaten him this season.
Henderson finished second ahead of third-placed Manyonga in the Stockholm Diamond League, while Samaai took the honours at the African championships. Henderson is second on the Diamond League rankings and Samaai third.
Semenya is ranked second in the Diamond League women’s 800m behind Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi, but that’s purely by virtue of having run fewer events. Semenya has competed in four 800m races, while Niyonsaba has done all six, winning the two Semenya missed.
But Semenya has not lost to Niyonsaba since July 2012, just before the London Olympics. In fact, Semenya hasn’t lost an 800m final or premier one-off race since the 2015 world championships.
Akani Simbine is SA’s next-highest ranked Diamond League athlete at fourth, but his 100m final is on the second night of finals in Brussels on Friday.
Carina Horn (100m) and Wenda Nel (400m hurdles) are ranked seventh, Luxolo Adams (200m) eighth, Cornel Fredericks (men’s 400m hurdles) 11th and Pieter Conradie (400m) 21st.
Those finishing last in eight-lane races will pocket $2,000 (more than R28,000).
• The meeting will be broadcast live on SuperSport 8 from 8pm.