Caster Semenya bagged the 1500m bronze medal in a gutsy drama filled tactical race, that took on a most unexpected style.
Most pundits had predicted that the race would be taken out fast with the objective of running the legs out of the South African, but the exact opposite happened with the versatile Scot Laura Muir holding the field for the first kilometer, clocking 65.34 at 400, and 2:17.11 for 800m. Semenya, who ran most of the race in the second lans, was content to hover in eighth and ninth position and was caught off-guard by Sifan Hassan who blasted to the front with 600m to go.
There was a massive task to be faced as the South African had only managed to gain three places as she came off the final bend.
Hassan, Faith Kipyegon, and Muir were locked in battle up front, until a final 200m of 28 seconds saw Semenya clawing her way to the front. The combination of momentum and the line dip saw the South African tumbling to the ground, but not before she seized the bronze from Muir, who lost the medal by 0.07 seconds.
Kipyegon added the World Gold to her Olympic and Commonwealth titles in 4:02.59, with American Jennifer Simpson a surprise silver, (4:02.76), and Semenya 4:02.90.
Hassan’s injection of pace had been unsustainable and the netherlander finished in fifth, with World record holder Genzebe Dibaba brining up the tail of the race.
“Obviously we made a mistake and we paid for that, but we have a medal and we are happy for that,” said Semenya. “we let them stretch out so long which meant i was too far back was the mistake.”
Given this was effectively Semenya’s first 1500m international race, it was special to walk away with the bronze, particularly in what is the top field of this era.
The Olympic 800m champion was upbeat about the upcoming 800m campaign. “Of course We know how to recover, there are two days, we normally train every day; so for me its not a big deal, I’m a big girl, i know how to handle stuff like this,” said Semenya who gave the South African team the third medal, and second bronze of the championships, with six days remaining.”
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The evening commenced with all three South African 200m sprinters making it to the semi final, but ended with only two getting through to Tuesdays Semi finals.
Excitement turned to despair for Clarence Munyai, who had clocked 20.19 in his first world championships and had, he thought, secured a 3rd place that would put him into the semi finals.
Unaware of what was to follow, he shared his enjoyment and belief that he could make it through to the final, and in particular how proud he was that three South Africans had made it into the 200m semi final.
However, soon after leaving the mixed zone, the 19 year old was formally disqualified. Munyai together with Aaron Brown on his inside, were adjudged to have run outside their lanes resulting in disqualification after the initial results had been posted.
Although both team managements lodged protests, these were rejected by the appeals board.
Wayde van Neikerk made light work of his qualification which saw him in lane 7 inside from Britains Danny Talbot, who he has competed against for around seven years.
Having caught up the lane stagger coming off the bend, van Neikerk looked out to Talbot, smiled, and ran shoulder to shoulder with him to the finish to record 20.16, and pull the British athlete to a new PB, 0.04 seconds faster than he started the race.
As with his 400m heats on the first day, van Neikerk did not engage with the media, but walked straight through leaving only the promise “see you tomorrow” in reference to the 400m final which hopefully will see him complete the first part of his 200m – 400m double gold.
There was nothing to be seen between Van Neikerk and Talbot, but timing to 1/1000th of a second gave Van Neikerk the nod.
Talbot was clearly confident following the PB, and talked about the incident with the South African.
Botswana’s Isaac Makwala was also due to take on the double, but was missing at the start of his fifth heat. He was one of many victims of food poisoning that had hit on of the team hotels.
Despite warming up, he was unable to compete in the 200m and has been quarantined from the team, making him, at least at this stage, a non-starter for Tuesday’s 400m final.
It is understood that a number of the German and Jamaican team are affected and the others are being moved from the affected hotel.
Akani Simbine, who made the 100m final on Saturday night, returned to action in the sixth of the 200m heats. .
The 23 year old was drawn in the seventh lane inside American Isiah Young, potentially the faster man in the field.
The South African ran a controlled race around the bend and looked to be enjoying his race to finish behind Young in 20.26 just 0.07 seconds adrift of the American.
The hip impingement that had hampered Simbine earlier in the week is receiving attention and he does not feel this will be a problem in getting into the final.
400m hurdles heats
Wanda Nel had a good qualifying run in her 400m hurdle heat, despite losing focus and rhythm over the final three barriers when she upped the tempo to close the gap on heat winner Kori Carter, who clocked 54.99. Nel was second in 55.47.
“I’m happy with the race and it felt good,” said Nel who is confident she can make the final. “It will definitely take a sub 55,(to get to the final) but i know i can handle that.”
Listen to Nel here:
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Tuesday 8 August:
South Africans in action:
20:30 200m Heats – Justine Palframan
21:35 400m hurdles semi final Wenda Nel
22:50 400m Final Wayde van Neikerk.