Caster Semenya Three Titles, Three Golds as Shange Surprises
Caster Semenya won her third World title and gave South Africa its third Gold medal on the final day of the World Athletics Championships in London.
The Potchefstroom based athlete closed South Africa’s championship performances in the style that Luvo Munyonga had opened – with a Gold and with a bonus of a World Leading and South African Record time of 1:5516.
The time reduced her own record by 0.11 seconds.
It was Burundian Niyonsaba who took the field out, with caster initially in fifth but slipping to sixth at 400m which was broken in 57.98. Caster was 0.55 off the pace but comfortably on the outside at the bell.
It seemed like she wanted to move as they approached the 500m mark, but when they hit the straight an increase in effort closed the gap on the front three and Semanya began the serious work of claiming her place in history
Off the final bend there was no doubt she had control, and she continued to move away with 5 or more metres in hand when she crossed the line.
Niyonsaba and American Ajee Wilson won silver and bronze respectively in 1:55.92 and 1:56.65
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This is the third world championship title for Semenya, who earned her first title amid the controversy of 2009, and has been recently been upgraded to Gold medal for 2011 after the disqualification of Mariya Savinova.
The Russian, who is currently appealing her doping suspension, had her performances between July 2010 and August 2013 deleted.
The 26-year-old dedicated her medal to her support team, “without whom she would not have been here,” but talk of World records are dismissed. “World records will come when they come, for now we are just running and enjoying racing.”
Casters 1500m bronze and 800m Gold is a major contribution to the 3 gold, 1 silver, and 2 bronze team medal tally that makes this the greatest World Championship haul for South African athletics.
The previous best came in Paris in 2003 where the team returned home with two Gold a Silver and a bronze.
Earlier in the final day, Lebogang Shange was the surprise of the 20k walk, clocking a new South African record of 1:19:18 and finishing fourth behind world champion Elder Arevalo of Columbia in 1:18:53.
Sergei Shirobokov (ANA) and Caio Bonfim (BRA) were silver and bronze in 1:18:55 and 1:19:04 respectively
The Gauteng based walker who is coached by a previous South African walking star, Chris Britz, and in recent years has gained so much from guidance in Australia and Hungary, paced his walk perfectly with a conservative start that saw him in 27th position at 5km in 20:01.
Only dropping his pace slightly over the next 5km, Shange hit halfway at 40:13, feeling comfortable.
His Hungarian advisor told him to pick it up, and over the next 5km picked up the pace and positions into 12th and with 2km to go had joined Shirobokov and Bonfim in contention for Silver and Bronze.
Shange’s 19:37 for the third 5km split was the faster than any other walker from 10k to 15km.
The gutsy South African came off the penultimate bend at Admiralty Arch at the front of the trio and fighting for silver, but his progression through the field took its toll and the other two picked up the pace as they approached Buckingham Palace turn point to open a 14 second gap.
Shange’s whose previous best had been an 11th place in the Beijing World Championships, had saved the best for last completing his final 5km in 19:28, the third fastest of the day.
Shange, who turned 27 the day the team gathered in London, planned to celebrate his dramatic move to world class status with family and support team later than night.