Caster Semenya stormed to victory in the women’s 800m at the Rio Olympics by more than a second on Saturday night.
Semenya, who improved her national record to 1min 55.28sec, controlled the race from the start, and apart from Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi attacking on the back straight, the South African track star never looked in danger of losing this one.
She put her foot down on the final bend, reclaiming her lead and then stretching it on the home straight.
“The coach just told me to be patient and wait for the right moment,” Semenya said afterwards. “It was just fantastic to run with the great athletes like this in the field.”
Niyonsaba was second in 1:56.49 and Kenya’s Margaret Wambui beat Canadian Melissa Bishop in a sprint for third spot, crossing the line in 1:56.89.
Semenya the 2009 world champion, decided to drop the 400m before the Rio Games, but said it was a race to consider in future.
“The 400m is something I’m still looking forward to.”
As the silver medallist at London 2012, Semenya’s gold on Saturday has made her the first SA athlete since 110m hurdler Sid Atkinson in 1928 to upgrade a silver to gold four years later.
Elroy Gelant, the only other SA athlete in action on the track on Saturday, ended near the back of the field in the 5000m, won by Briton Mo Farah as he clinched his second Olympic double.
Semenya’s gold on Saturday was Team South Africa’s second gold of the Games, and their 10th medal overall, which matches the country’s best returns from 1952 and 1920.
If the Rio haul stays the same by the closing ceremony on Sunday night, this will officially be SA’s second-best Olympic performance of all time, ranking only behind the 1920 outfit that won three golds among their 10 gongs at Antwerp 96 years ago.