Thrilling end to third day of Commonwealth Games athletics action sees Semenya break South African and Games record, while Courtney wins medal for Wales
Caster Semenya stormed to a record-breaking 1500m victory at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games on Tuesday, clocking 4:00.71 to get gold ahead of Beatrice Chepkoech, while Wales’ Melissa Courtney ran the race of her life for bronze.
Waiting until the final lap to make her move, Semenya surged ahead with 200m to go and claimed a dominant win, with Kenya’s Chepkoech running a PB of 4:03.09 to secure her silver and Courtney clocking a PB of 4:03.44 for bronze.
Semenya’s time is a South African record, improving on the 4:01.81 set by Zola Budd in 1984, while it also betters the Games record of 4:04.43 which had been run by Kenya’s Hellen Obiri in 2014.
“I am very happy with how I performed tonight. I’m proud of my efforts,” said the two-time Olympic and three-time world 800m champion, who will now turn her attention to contesting the shorter event in Australia.
“It was a good race, but I always want to improve in every race I have, and learn from my last races.”
Like Semenya, Courtney has plans to double up on the Gold Coast but her the next race will be over 5000m, which she admitted she thought was going to be the stronger of her two events.
“I can’t really put it into words, it means so much,” the Welsh runner said on bagging bronze. “I knew I was in good shape but that last lap was a bit of a blur. I’m going to have to watch it back and see what happened.
“Originally I had in my head I wanted to finish top six in the 5km and make the final in the 1500m,” she added. “I don’t really know now what to expect! I’m excited still for the 5km because I feel I’m in really good 5km shape and I really want to prove it.”
Courtney led a number of British athletes to the finish, with Scotland’s Eilish McColgan sixth in 4:04.30 and her team-mate Steph Twell seventh in 4:05.56 – the latter running her fastest time for eight years.
England’s Sarah McDonald placed eighth with 4:05.77, while Katie Snowden was 11th in 4:06.55 and Northern Ireland’s Ciara Mageean 13th in 4:07.41. Jess Judd placed 14th for England with 4:08.82.
It was the last event on the evening’s programme and started slightly later than planned due to a technical fault following a heavy rain downpour at the Carrara Stadium.
More medals for Jamaica
Ronald Levy and Hansle Parchment claimed a 1-2 for Jamaica in the 110m hurdles final as they ran respective times of 13.19 and 13.22, but Andrew Pozzi finished sixth after he hit the first hurdle.
The world indoor 60m hurdles champion had been hoping to add another medal to his haul, this time for England, but he later explained how mistakes had been made as he was trying to rush back into contention and he eventually clocked 13.53.
“I tried to build again and I thought I did a reasonable job, I felt like I started to move back through,” he said. “But I was rushing things, and timing and rhythm is everything in hurdles. I made mistakes you can’t get away with.”
Considering it a missed opportunity, he added: “I think it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see that I should have been fighting for medals here. It is a very good standard in the Commonwealth in the hurdles but I think I was in shape to win a medal.”
Behind Levy and Parchment was Australia’s Nick Hough and the home crowd roared when the Glasgow 2014 fourth-placer was confirmed as the bronze medallist with his PB of 13.38.
“It’s just so great to have an opportunity to have a home Games,” he said, “and I’m so glad I could make the most of it.”
A short while later another Jamaican 1-2 was confirmed as Kimberly Williams recorded a PB of 14.64m in the final round to claim the triple jump title ahead of her team-mate Shanieka Ricketts with 14.52m. Finishing third with a jump of 13.92m, Thea Lafond claimed Dominica’s first ever medal at the Commonwealth Games, across all sports.
There was another nation 1-2 in the women’s T54 1500m and this time it was for Australia, much to the crowd’s delight. Madison de Rozario got the gold in 3:34.06 from Angie Ballard with 3:36.85 as Canada’s Diane Roy took bronze with 3:36.97. Scotland’s Sammi Kinghorn, who next contests the marathon, finished fourth in 3:37.91 and England’s Nicole Emerson sixth.
The crowd’s cheers couldn’t help the home nation to gold in the men’s event, however, as Canada’s Alex Dupont took the title in 3:11.75 ahead of three-time Paralympic champion Kurt Fearnley with 3:11.92 and Jake Lappin with 3:12.60. England’s Nathan Maguire was fourth and Dillon Labrooy fifth, while Richard Chiassaro – following his Games record in the heats – was eighth after his tyre exploded. Northern Ireland’s Jack Agnew finished 10th.
Makwala’s one-lap win
The 400m final was Isaac Makwala’s opportunity to show what he could do, following the controversial decision that led to him missing the event at last year’s World Championships in London. He made the most of the stage to claim a dominant victory, clocking 44.35 to lead a Botswana 1-2 ahead of world fourth-placer Baboloki Thebe with 45.09. Jamaica’s Javon Francis secured bronze with a time of 45.11.
England’s Matthew Hudson-Smith had looked in 44.5 shape earlier on in the competition as he easily clocked 45.57 to win his heat, but his disqualification for a lane infringement left him unable to prove what else he might be capable of.
England’s Rabah Yousif and Dwayne Cowan and Guernsey’s Cameron Chalmers had reached the semi-finals, while Jersey’s Sam Dawkins ran a PB in the heats.
There will also not be any British athletes in the women’s 400m final as Scotland’s Zoey Clark and England’s Anyika Onuora and Emily Diamond each placed fourth in their semi-finals so will not advance. Jamaica’s Anastasia Le-Roy went fastest overall with 51.08, while her team-mate Stephenie Ann McPherson, the reigning champion, ran 51.21.
Like her team-mate Pozzi, Sophie Hitchon was left disappointed with her performance in the Carrara Stadium after she exited the hammer final following three fouls.
The title was claimed by New Zealand’s Julia Ratcliffe with her fifth-round throw of 69.94m ahead of Australian duo Alexandra Hulley with 68.20m and Lara Nielsen with 65.03m. Wales’ Carys Parry finished sixth with 61.58m.
“It just wasn’t quite there today,” said Olympic bronze medallist Hitchon, who had led the rankings going into the competition.
“I’ve been working on a new technique and I’ve got to keep working on it because it is definitely the way forward. When I land it, it will go very far.”
The second day of the decathlon had seen Damian Warner’s hopes of retaining his title dashed after he failed all three attempts at his opening height of 4.50m in the pole vault.
That marked the end of his competition, meanwhile Grenada’s Lindon Victor first threw 71.10m for the longest javelin mark as part of a Commonwealth Games decathlon before he clocked 5:04.75 in the 1500m to secure the title with 8303 points ahead of Canada’s Pierce Lepage with a PB of 8171 and Australia’s Cedric Dubler with 7983. England’s John Lane was sixth with 7529 and Wales’ Ben Gregory seventh with 7449.
» See the April 12 edition of AW magazine for in-depth event-by-event coverage from the Gold Coast Games