South African Athletics

3 SA victories at Diamond League in Rome

2016-06-03 06:46
Prayer comes first for Wayde van Niekerk on the track PHOTO: Patrick Smith / Getty Images

Cape Town - South African athletes delivered superb all-round performances on Thursday night, with five competitors finishing among the top two in their respective events at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome.

Sprinter Wayde van Niekerk, middle-distance specialist Caster Semenya and javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen all secured victory at the fifth of 14 legs in the top-flight international campaign.

Van Niekerk, competing in his first international race of the season, won the men's 400m race in 44.19 seconds, just 0.08 outside the season's best he set in his home town of Bloemfontein at the ASA Open Championships last month.

He led off the final bend and drew clear to cross the line well ahead of Grenada's Bralon Taplin who finished second in 44.43.

Semenya was perhaps even more dominant, charging to victory in 1:56.64 to equal the world lead she set in Rabat less than two weeks earlier in the women’s 800m.

Sitting back for most of the race, as she has done throughout the season, Semenya launched a late assault down the home straight to win convincingly for the third Diamond League two-lap contest this year, with Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi securing second position in 1:58.20.

In warm, humid conditions, Viljoen snatched victory with a best heave of 61.95m.

While this was well short of her own world lead, she edged out Madara Palameika of Latvia (61.92) to bag another morale-boosting win.

Two other SA athletes continued to stick their hands up in the early stages of the international campaign, both earning second place in their events.

Victor Hogan launched a 64.03m heave in the fifth round, less than a metre short of Polish athlete Robert Urbanek, and after a conservative start, Wenda Nel stormed down the finishing straight to clock a Season's Best of 54.61 in the women's 400m hurdles, with Janeive Russell of Jamaica crossing the line in 53.96 to rack up a new world lead.

Ruswahl Samaai ended fourth in the men's long jump with a leap of 8.16m, with Luvo Manyonga taking seventh place (8.03m), while comeback speedster Akani Simbine (10.13) grabbed fifth spot in the Men's 100m dash, which was won by American Justin Gatlin in 9.93.


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