National distance running icon Zola Budd says Caster Semenya’s record-breaking form can only be good for the sport of athletics, after Semenya shattered one of Budd’s last two remaining SA marks this week.
Semenya, who already held the national 800m (1:55.16) and 1 000m (2:35.43) records which had previously been set by Zelda Pretorius and Ilze Wicksell, added the 1 500m mark on Tuesday when she won gold at the Commonwealth Games.
She kicked hard on the last lap, storming home in 4:00.71 to smash the record of 4:01.81 which had been clocked by a 17-year-old Budd in Port Elizabeth in March 1984.
“Records are there to be broken and that is what improves our sport,” Budd, a former 5 000m world record holder, said in a brief statement from her home in the United States on Thursday.
With her 1 500m mark having being eclipsed, Budd retained one more SA record in the mile event (1.609km), a distance over which Semenya had never competed at elite level, after clocking 4:23.38 in Port Elizabeth in March 1981.
While Budd set career bests of 3:59.96 over the 1 500m distance and 4:17.57 in the mile, both performances were achieved after she switched allegiance by taking up English citizenship.
Semenya is set to compete again at the Gold Coast Games on Friday, turning out in the 800m final in search of a middle-distance double.