It was a spectacular weekend for South African women’s distance running, with athletes shining on the track and the road, both at home and abroad.
Though most athletes were still gaining momentum in the early stages of the season, it was potentially the end of the road for one of the country’s most accomplished stars.
While she remained typically stoic in her mild celebrations afterwards, tossing some flowers into the crowd before chatting candidly to the media, Semenya’s victory at the IAAF Diamond League season opener in Doha on Friday night drew support from around the world as the global athletics community bid the middle-distance sensation an indefinite farewell.
The world and Olympic Champion stormed home in 1:54.98 in a fitting swansong, finishing nearly three seconds ahead of the rest of the field in the women’s 800m race, just five days before new international gender regulations were set to come into effect which could see her sidelined from the sport for at least six months.
Again flaunting her impeccable consistency, Scott-Efurd booked her spot in the provisional national team for the IAAF World Championships in Doha in September.
The US-based athlete finished sixth in the women’s 10 000m race at the Payton Jordan Invitational meeting in California on Friday night, clocking 31:43.18 and clipping eight seconds off the personal best she set at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Having dipped under the qualifying standard of 31:50.00, she should be on the start line at the global championships.
Irvette van Zyl
She wasn’t the best of the South African athletes in the final results – with that honour belonging to versatile compatriot Kesa Molotsane – but road specialist Irvette van Zyl delivered a memorable performance at the opening leg of the Spar Women’s Grand Prix 10km series in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
Just two weeks after making her ultra-marathon debut at the 56km Old Mutual Two Oceans race in Cape Town, where she finished third, Van Zyl put up an early fight in the Windy City and held on to finish fifth in 33:39
Molotsane, meanwhile, produced a solid effort of her own to grab
Up front, Helalia Johannes won the race in a Namibian national record of 31:50, and 17-year-old Ethiopian athlete Tadu Teshome Nare finished second, crossing the line 48 seconds off the pace in one of the quickest 10km contests held on SA soil in recent years.