GOLD COAST, Australia (Reuters) – South African flag-bearer Caster Semenya powered to the 1,500 metres title at the Commonwealth Games on Tuesday, keeping her bid for a golden double at the Gold Coast intact.
Semenya, the 800m Olympic and world champion, bided her time before burning away from the modest field 300 metres before the line to post a Games record time of four minutes and 0.72 seconds on a soggy track at Carrara Stadium.
Semenya, who will also bid for gold in the 800m, left Kenya’s silver medalist Beatrice Chepkoech (4:03:09) in her wake, with Wales Melissa Courtney taking the bronze.
Semenya’s gold continued a proud Games for South Africa on the track, following Akani Simbine’s 100m gold when he upstaged Jamaica’s favorite Yohan Blake on Monday.
Another African nation, Botswana, also denied Jamaica in the men’s 400m as the flamboyant Isaac Makwala blitzed the field with a quality time of 44.35 seconds.
Makwala crossed the line with mouth agape and arms spread like an aeroplane, well clear of runner-up compatriot Baboloki Thebe (45.09) and third-placed Jamaican Javon Francis.
The 31-year-old Makwala was controversially barred from competing in the 400 final at last year’s world championships in London over illness fears, so the Commonwealth gold was some consolation for that disappointment.
Blake’s stumbling effort for a disappointing bronze put a dampener on the Jamaican team on Monday, but the Caribbean athletics powerhouse hit back with golds in the 110 metres hurdles and the triple jump.
Ronald Levy led a Jamaican one-two in the hurdles ahead of former world silver medalist Hansle Parchment, with local runner Nicholas Hough claiming bronze.
Jamaica’s Kimberly Williams also led a one-two for the nation in the triple jump, leaping 14.64 metres on her final effort to pip her team mate Shanieka Ricketts by 12cm. Thea Lafond took the bronze for Dominica.
Olympic champion Elaine Thompson won her heat to qualify fifth fastest for the 200 metres semi-finals. Her team mate Rasheed Dwyer, the defending champion, was also safely through to the men’s semis.
Grenada’s aptly-named Lindon Victor took gold in the decathlon with a total 8,303 points, capitalizing on defending champion Damian Warner’s calamitous setback during the pole vault.
Canadian Warner, the Rio Olympic bronze medalist, was leading but crashed out of medal contention after he failed to clear a height, plunging from first in the standings to sixth.
Canada’s Pierce Lepage (8,171) took the silver, with Australia’s Cedric Dubler taking bronze.