While Caster Semenya was the headline act, breaking her national 800m record after powering her way to victory in 1:54.25 at the Paris Diamond League on Saturday night, it was a spectacular weekend all-round for South African athletics with a number of other individuals sticking up their hands on the international circuit.
Unhappy with the pacing duties provided in her previous Diamond League race in Oslo three weeks earlier, where she won in 1:57.25, Semenya turned down an offer from the organisers for a pace setter in the French capital and took the responsibility upon herself in search of a quick time.
Hammering it hard from the gun, she stormed through the bell in 56.12 seconds and charged to a convincing victory, shattering her South African record by 0.91 and climbing to fourth place in the all-time world rankings over the two-lap distance.
“In Oslo we were not very happy about the pace, so I said: ‘No pace this time, see what you can get out of it’,” Semenya told the IAAF website.
“But 1:54.25… I did not expect that. I was thinking 1:54.99 could be possible but this was great.”
At the Reisisprint meeting in La Chaux-de-Fonds on Sunday, diminutive rocket Rikenette Steenkamp broke her own national 100m hurdles record with a clinical victory.
The diminutive 25-year-old speedster crossed the line in 12.81 seconds, slicing 0.10 off the previous South African standard she had set in Prague last month.
Earlier, in the heats of her specialist event, Steenkamp had blitzed to a fast 12.70, but her time was not considered for record purposes due to the benefit of a +2.2m/s tailwind.
Powerhouse sprinter Emile Erasmus was also in superb form, twice giving the 10-second barrier a shake in the men’s 100m event.
Erasmus clocked a personal best of 10.01 in the heats and returned to the track later in the afternoon to win the final in 10.02, delivering breakthrough performances and narrowly missing out on becoming the sixth South African to crack the sub-10 mark.
Elsewhere on Saturday, in Bad Langensalza, the country’s top long jumpers were also in notable form.
Though Juan Echevarria of Cuba won the event with another monstrous 8.68m leap, three SA athletes cleared 8.40m.
Luvo Manyonga finished second with a best jump of 8.42m and Ruswahl Samaai edged out compatriot Zarck Visser for third place on countback, with both athletes landing at 8.40m.