Caster Semenya dedicated her spectacular 1,500m Commonwealth Games gold medal to her country after the South African smashed Zola Budd’s national record by more than a second on Tuesday.
The middle-distance star was never in trouble on a track that had been dampened by rain on Australia’s Gold Coast and she powered to the line to grab a slice of history.
The 27-year-old, the reigning double Olympic and world champion over 800m, clocked a Games-record time of 4mins 00.71secs to demolish the South African mark of 4:01.81 set by Budd in 1984.
Semenya’s nearest challenger was Kenya’s Beatrice Chepkoech, who took a distant silver in a personal best of 4:03.09, with Melissa Courtney of Wales sealing bronze.
Semenya, long beset by controversy over her elevated levels of male sex hormones, had targeted Budd’s record and will now be strong favourite for a Commonwealth double with the 800m to come.
“As a middle-distance runner, I think I’ve done enough for my collection, but this was for my country, this was for the youth,” said Semenya, as she celebrated her first Commonwealth medal.
On Monday, countryman Akani Simbine won a stunning men’s 100m gold in a shock South African one-two ahead of Jamaican favourite Yohan Blake.
“We are inspiring the youth back there so I just want to show them it is possible, they can do it, they just need to wake up,” said Semenya.
Asked if she was now targeting the 800m world record at the Games – the final is on Friday – she replied: “I can say the weather is nice here and I am ready.”
Semenya, one of the biggest draws at a Games short on star names, added: “I want everyone to know that South African athletes are here to stay.
“I’m proud to be a South African, we are a great nation and we want to display that to the world.” – Agence France-Presse