Caster Semenya continued her successful season and took the lead in the women’s 800m Diamond Race when she won over two laps of the track at the first IAAF Diamond League to be held in Africa, staged in the Moroccan city of Rabat, when she won in a world-leading time of 1:56.64 on Sunday (22).
Pacemaker Anastasiya Tkachuk, from Ukraine, took the field through the first 400m in 56.70 and then Burundi’s 2016 world indoor champion Francine Niyonsaba took the lead and tried to break away from the classy field.
Niyonsaba passed 600m in 1:27.92 but couldn’t shake off the lurking presence of Semenya, who overtook her 50 metres from home and then pulled away to finish just 0.05 outside of Niyonsaba’s Diamond League record set in 2012.
The Burundian hung on to finish second in 1:57.74 as France’s Renelle Lamote edged out Kenya’s Eunice Sum to finish third in a personal best of 1:58.84, with the 2013 world champion fourth in 1:59.32.
Sum’s successor in Beijing last summer, Marina Arzamasova from Belarus, had a hugely disappointing race and could only finish in eighth in 2:01.49.
WHO’S THE BOSSE?
France’s Pierre-Ambroise Bosse surged a little earlier than Semenya in the men’s 800m and hit the front coming into the final bend, just as the pacemaker Edwin Meli – who had taken the field through the first 400m in 51.17 – stepped to one side, and the move seemed to catch his rivals by surprise.
However, the former European junior champion possesses a formidable turn of speed over the final 150 metres of his preferred distance and was able to hold off the fast-closing Taoufik Makhloufi with relative ease, stopping the clock in 1:44.51.
Algeria’s London 2012 Olympic Games 1500m champion finished second in 1:44.91 with Bosnia’s Amel Tuka, 2015’s fastest man over two laps of the track, third in 1:45.41; also finding out too late that he had been badly positioned when Bosse made his decisive move.
Botswana’s 2015 Diamond Race winner Nijel Amos never looked comfortable, perhaps still tired after arriving in Rabat late the previous night, and had to settle for seventh in 1:47.34.
Another Botswanan to look a little limp was Issac Makwala.
To be fair, the former African 400m record holder ran a stunning race for 350 metres but he over-estimated how much was in the tank and struggled badly over the final metres of the 400m, and could only glance grimly to his inside as first LaShawn Merritt and then Jonathan Borlee passed him as he his legs turned to lead.
Merritt, who timed his race to perfection and afforded Makwala a sizable lead over the first half of the race, came through strongly to win in a meeting record 44.66 while Borlee took second in 45.26, with the tiring Makwala third in 45.36.