Caster Semenya leads SA charge in Paris Diamond League


PARIS, France, June 29 – Led by Caster Semenya, South Africa will have six athletes in action on Saturday night when the IAAF Diamond League series makes its seventh stop of the season in Paris, France.

World and Olympic 800m champion Semenya, who leads the 2018 Diamond League campaign in the women’s two-lap event, will again turn out as the firm favourite over her best distance. She goes up against a full-strength field, however, with perennial bridesmaid Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and American record holder Ajee Wilson leading the chase.

In the 100m A men’s race, SA record holder Akani Simbine will be eager to build on his good form after dipping under 10 seconds for the first time this year when he clocked 9.98 in Madrid last week. Simbine enters the blocks against Jamaican powerhouse Yohan Blake and American rocket Mike Rodgers.

Another SA record holder, Antonio Alkana, also faces a quality field in the 110m men’s hurdles event, with the Western Cape star needing to progress through a first-round heat to qualify for the final.

The line-up features five men who have dipped under 13 seconds in their careers, spearheaded by world record holder Aries Merritt of the United States, French favourite Pascal Martinot-Lagarde and former world champion Sergey Shubenkov of Russia, competing as an authorised neutral athlete.

While the 200m men’s battle does not form part of the official Diamond League series, 21-year-old national champion Luxolo Adams will be aiming for some big scalps when he lines up alongside former European champion Churandy Martina of the Netherlands, Olympic bronze medallist Christophe Lemaitre of France and former World Championships silver medallist Alonso Edward of Panama.

Earlier in the programme, sub-10 sprinters Henricho Bruintjies and Thando Roto will turn out in the men’s 100m B race.

Schedule of SA athletes:

7.17pm – Antonio Alkana (110m Hurdles Heats Men)

7.35pm – Henricho Bruintjies, Thando Roto (100m B Men)

8.30pm – Luxolo Adams (200m Men)

8.53pm – Antonio Alkana (110m Hurdles Final Men)

9.42pm – Caster Semenya (800m Women)

9.52pm – Akani Simbine (100m A, Men)

– African News Agency (ANA)