Semenya, Manyonga close SA champs with impressive wins

Caster Semenya completed the 800m/1500m double at the SA national championships in Pretoria. Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Caster Semenya and Luvo Manyonga showed their pedigree by retaining their national titles on the third and final day of the ASA Senior T&F and Combined Events Championships in Pretoria.

Caster Semenya stopped the clock at 1:57.80 in the 800m final to record her quickest ever time on home soil. She also secured the 800m/1 500m double and will next be in action at sea level ahead of her 1 500m race at the final leg of the Liquid Telecom Athletix Grand Prix Series in Paarl next week.

"It's a great time. Obviously we always want to experience something new," Semenya said in an ASA press release. "We need to try and run the same pace at home that we run in the European season. We're doing this for our people, and it's all about growing South African athletics."

South Africa's other well-known world champion, Luvo Manyonga, catapulted himself 8.41m across the sand pit to win gold in the Long Jump Men, 20 centimetres clear of IAAF World Championships bronze medallist Ruswahl Samaai.

"I feel great, and happy to compete in front of a South African crowd," Manyonga said after collecting his medal. "I'm happy with my performance today and it's my first outdoor (meeting of the season), so I'm excited for more competition."

One of the stand-out performances of the day was that of world youth champion Zeney van der Walt. The 17-year-old had the crowd on their feet by grabbing the silver medal in the 400m Hurdles final.

In a gutsy performance, she was edged out by Wenda Nel, who won gold in 55.01 seconds. Van der Walt held on for second place in 55.05, breaking the 35-year-old SA Junior record of 55.74 set by Myrtle Bothma in Bloemfontein in April 1983.

"I just ran my own race and focussed on my own 10 hurdles," Van der Walt said. "This gives me a lot of confidence, and now I know I can reach my sub-55 goal."

Meawhile, sprinter Justine Palframan had a golden day by winning the 200m (22.97) and 400m (51.31) titles just 45 minutes apart.

"It's not what I expected. Going into the 400m I tried not to be negative because my body was feeling a bit tired," Palframan said. "When I crossed the line and saw '51', I had to look twice. There's no way to explain it. I'm very excited."

In other events, Luxolo Adams won the 200m final in 20.08 after new national record holder Clarence Munyai withdrew and Lindsay Hanekom took the 400m hurdles in 49.17, dragging five men under the 50-second barrier.

In the morning session, Wayne Snyman won the 20km Race Walk in 1:24:58 in cold and wet conditions, in the absence of SA record holder Lebogang Shange who withdrew from the event for personal reasons.