Caster Semenya finally breaks Zola Budd’s national record

South Africa's Caster Semenya celebrates winning the athletics women's 1500m final during the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games at the Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast on April 10, 2018.
South Africa's Caster Semenya celebrates winning the athletics women's 1500m final during the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games at the Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast on April 10, 2018.
Image: SAEED KHAN / AFP

Caster Semenya finally broke Zola Budd’s 1500m national record as she landed South Africa’s only gold of the Commonwealth Games on Tuesday.

The medal count dropped to three — although it was effectively four with the colour of a bowls medal to be decided on Wednesday — but it was dramatic nonetheless.

Chad Le Clos closed off the gala with a display of immense power to secure the 17th gong of his career‚ a bronze in the 4x100m medley relay.

Brad Tandy‚ part of the foursome‚ also added a silver in the 50m freestyle earlier in the evening.

SA remained in fifth place on the medals table with nine gold‚ six silver and six bronzes‚ one gold ahead of Canada.

Semenya has set herself up for a golden Games double after winning the 1500m in a 4min 00.71sec Games record‚ also knocking more than a second off Budd’s 4:01.81 national mark from 1984.

The Olympic and world 800m champion ran with her usual confidence‚ sitting in fifth place behind leader Beatrice Chepkoech of Kenya before making her move with some 300m to go.

When she attacked‚ nobody could respond‚ although the two medallists behind her both set personal bests‚ Chepkoech 4:03.09 and Melissa Courtney of Wales 4:03.44.

Le Clos dived into the 4x100m medley relay with his team off the podium position‚ and he ripped through the Gold Coast pool in 50.10sec — nearly a second faster than the next best — to give Tandy a handy lead over fourth-placed Scotland for the final freestyle leg.

Tandy needed the advantage as Scotland’s 100m freestyle champion‚ Duncan Scott‚ devoured more than two seconds into the cushion.

By the time Tandy stopped the clock on 3:34.79‚ the Scot was 0.36sec behind.

Tandy finished second in the 50m freestyle behind England’s pre-race favourite‚ Ben Proud.

The field featured three Englishmen and three Australians‚ but they couldn’t get more than one swimmer each onto the podium‚ with Cameron McEvoy taking third for the hosts.

Tandy clocked 21.81sec‚ nearly half-a-second off Proud (21.35)‚ but he was pleased with the result.

“Performance-wise‚ I would say maybe top three‚” said Tandy‚ who finished tied sixth at the Rio Olympics and has scored a couple of good wins in the US.

As usual he was fast off the blocks‚ but slowed a little a little over halfway across the lap.

“I have trained my start a lot. When I come on the breakout‚ I am coming out with a lot of speed and it’s hard to maintain that once I get into my own stroke and rhythm.”

This was the fifth time in six Games that South Africa has taken a medal in this event‚ with Roland Schoeman having reaching the podium three times and Brendon Dedekind once.

The visually impaired mixed pair lawn-bowlers‚ Nozipho Schroeder and Philippus Walker‚ secured a medal after beating Wales 11-9 in their semifinal‚ although it went down to the last bowl delivered by the SA skip.

“That was gut-wrenching‚ to say the least‚” said skip Walker‚ who had to position his wood perfectly to secure the victory. “To do it on the last bowl‚ it wasn’t easy.”

But to land gold they will have to get past the favourites‚ Australians Lynne Seymour and Jake Fehlberg‚ in the final on Wednesday night.

They met the hosts on the opening day of the Games and were blown away 26-3‚ but the Aussies are beatable‚ having lost to England in this tournament.

Antonio Alkana finished fifth in the 110m hurdles in 13.49‚ slower than his heats effort of 13.32‚ which would have earned him bronze.

“I’m not happy with the time‚” he said afterwards. “I ran faster and much easier in the heats. And also the tension in the final is so much higher‚ everyone wants to bring their A game. The best guy won today.”

There was little else to enthuse about on the day.

SA’s last remaining boxer was eliminated‚ and the women’s hockey team lost 0-1 to India for their second defeat in four matches.

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