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Akani downs world champ as Wayde runs fastest 400m time of comeback

David Isaacson Sports reporter
Akani Simbine celebrates after winning the men's 100m final at the Diamond League meet in Silesia on Sunday.
Akani Simbine celebrates after winning the men's 100m final at the Diamond League meet in Silesia on Sunday.
Image: REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel

Akani Simbine handed world champion Fred Kerley his first defeat since early last year as he won the 100m at the Diamond League meet in Silesia, Poland, on Sunday afternoon.

And Wayde van Niekerk ran the fastest time of his comeback, taking the 400m in a 44.08 sec meet record.

Simbine overcame a slow start to power his way to the finish line first in 9.97 to collect his seventh Diamond League crown.

American Kerley was second in 9.98 and Emmanuel Eseme of Cameron third in the same time. Marvin Bracy, the runner-up at the world championships last year, was a distant sixth in 10.10.

It was only the second time Simbine had beaten Kerley in nine races, the last occasion being the Herculis meet in Monaco in 2021.

Kerley, the silver medallist at the Tokyo Olympics, hadn’t lost a 100m since May last year, having gone unbeaten in 11 races.

“I know, I am the first to beat Fred this year,” said Simbine. “We have a good friendship, a good rivalry.”

But he admitted he wasn’t sure when he crossed the line. “I was not sure getting to the line that I won,” added Simbine. “But then I heard my name. I came in here for the win, so I am most happy. I won against all of them, not only against the world champion.”

Kerley insisted he was unfazed by the result. “I feel good about today’s race. Nothing was missing. I got my job done.”

Van Niekerk was a convincing victor as he collected the 10th Diamond League triumph of his career, with second-placed Bayapo Ndori of Botswana crossing in a distant 44.61.

Alison dos Santos of Brazil, a 400m hurdles specialist, was third in 44.73 while Zakithi Nene ended fourth in a 44.74 season’s best.

US champion Bryce Deadmon was sixth in 44.81.

Van Niekerk showed some speed on the final 100m, a crucial factor as he builds up to the world championships in Budapest next month; that’s probably the final piece of the puzzle he has needed to put into place since injuring his right knee in late 2017.

The 31-year-old, who celebrated his birthday on Saturday, will surely need to dip under 44 seconds to win in Hungary next month — and he’s threatening to get there. He hasn’t been in that territory in nearly six years.

“Things are moving in a positive direction,” Van Niekerk said. “It is my fastest run in seven years and 44.0 shows that 43 seconds is possible. The competition in my event is getting stronger so I need to work to get better as well.”

Marioné Fourie finished last in the women’s 100m hurdles, but the 12.73 she clocked was the second-fastest time of her career.

In fact, it was the second-fastest time by any South African, second only to the 12.55 national record Fourie set two weeks ago.

Fourie may have seemed slow in a race won by Nigerian Tobi Amusan in 12.34, but she showed excellent composure throughout her race, despite hitting a few hurdles and touching American Tia Jones in the race.

On Saturday US-based Adriaan Wildschutt knocked more than two seconds off Elroy Gelant’s SA 5,000m record as he finished second in a league race in 13 min 02.46 sec in the Belgian town of Heusden-Zolder.

The previous mark of 13:04.88 was set at Hengelo in 2016.

Wildschutt’s effort secured his qualification for the world championships in Budapest next month as well as the Paris Olympics next year.

The time also lifted him to 25th on the world list for 2023 so far, topped by Ethiopian Berihu Aregawi with 12:40.45.

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