Semenya crossed the line in 4:02.50, just 0.70 seconds off the record (4:01.80) set by Zola Budd in Port Elizabeth in 1984.
“We made sure of running a good rhythm and when I heard the announcer say in the final 200m, I was one second out (of the record), I really pushed hard. It is a pity I did not get the record, but this race showed me just where I am in my training and it is all on track,” said Semenya after her effort.
Semenya had Dominique Scott-Efurd chase her until she too had to give way with 300m to go to the metronomic pace set by Semenya.
“I was really happy with this run. I said I would try and stick with Caster for as long as possible and if I could beat my indoor best of 4:07.25, I would be extremely happy,” Scott-Efurd said.
Scott-Efurd’s outdoor personal best is 4:08.04 and she narrowly missed that after crossing the line in second place in 4:08.61.
It was an evening of incredible performances as Luxolo Adams, recently crowned the SA 200m champion, out-dipped former SA 200m record-holder Anaso Jobodwana on the line.
Adams had brought his personal best down to 20.08 at the national championships from 20.45.
On Thursday, he lowered that time again, this time to 20.01 – ahead of Jobodwana’s 20.07.
“I’m in good shape right now. Two PBs in the space of a week is really encouraging,” said the Eastern Cape athlete.
Meanwhile, Ruswahl Samaai had not competed in Paarl, his hometown, in seven years. The IAAF World Championship bronze medallist did not disappoint and leapt to his second-best performance in the long jump, landing at 8,39m. At the pre-event press conference, Samaai had been excited to compete in front of his home crowd and had made no secret of it.
“It has been seven years since I competed here. I am really excited to be competing at home and hope the crowds come out and support us,” he said.
And the crowds responded and cheered every jump that Samaai and the rest of the field leapt right in front of the packed pavilion.
Samaai’s leap is the second best in the world this year, behind the Cuban, Juan Miguel Echevarria’s 8,40m.
“I am tired of being second all the time. My goal is to become the number one long jumper in SA and the world,” said Samaai.
South African 100m record-holder, Akani Simbine , closed out the evening’s performances with a clinical 10.08 win.
“I stumbled a bit in the last 20m, but I am 96% happy with my run. There are still some small things to work on, but I am happy where I am, especially after having missed out on defending my SA title,” Simbine said.
Simbine had to withdraw from the semi-finals at the national championships – due to a cramp in his hamstring – so this race was vital to him as his final preparation for the Commonwealth Games.