Wesley Botton
Chief sports writer
2 minute read
23 Aug 2017
7:59 pm

From Caster to Akani: SA’s elite are ready to shine in Zurich

Wesley Botton

Seven of the top local athletes have a chance to claim series titles in the IAAF Diamond League meet in Switzerland.

Caster Semenya will look to crown a fabulous year. Photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters.

Eight South African athletes will compete at the first of two Diamond League finals in Zurich on Thursday night, and seven of them will be in the running for series titles.

In the absence of world record holder Wayde van Niekerk, sidelined from the 400m race due to a back injury, here are the country’s contenders in the finals of their disciplines:

Luvo Manyonga, long jump (8.45pm)

With an opportunity to close out a perfect campaign, the lanky world leader will be eager to add the Diamond League crown to his world title and massive 8.65m national record leap earlier this year. Having fallen just one centimetre short of Olympic gold last season, Manyonga will have a chance to close that chapter with another global victory.

Caster Semenya, 800m (8.58pm) 

Unbeaten over the two-lap distance for two years, Semenya is the world and Olympic champion and she won the Diamond League series last season. Perennial rival Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi is in the race but Semenya remains the firm favourite. If the pace is fast, her national record of 1:55.16 could be on the line.

Akani Simbine, 100m (9.08pm) 

His superb campaign was given a shake at the recent World Championships, and Simbine will hope to bounce back from a hip niggle which again saw him narrowly miss out on a major international medal. His strongest competition for the series title will be American rocket Justin Gatlin, the controversial world champion.

Other athletes

Ruswahl Samaai will hope to emerge from Manyonga’s shadow in the long jump, which also features Khotso Mokoena. LJ van Zyl will rely on his experience in the 400m hurdles (8.49pm) and Pieter Conradie lines up in the flat 400m sprint (9.43pm). Wenda Nel is in the women’s 400m hurdles race (8.05pm) but the final of her discipline will be contested in Brussels next week.

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