Commonwealth Games: Caster Semenya wins 1500m gold, Melissa Courtney third

Commonwealth Games: Caster Semenya wins 1500m gold, Melissa Courtney third
Semenya dominates women's 1500m

Semenya dominates women’s 1500m

SOUTH Africa’s Caster Semenya strode to 1500m gold at the Commonwealth Games as Welsh athlete Melissa Courtney claimed a superb bronze medal.

Semenya, a double Olympic champion at 800m, claimed her first 1500m title of any kind and the first part of an attempted double on the Gold Coast.

The 27-year-old powered home in a new Games record of four minutes 0.71 seconds.

Scotland’s Eilish McColgan finished sixth.

With Kenyan world champion Faith Kipyegon and Scotland’s Laura Muir absent, Semenya was favourite to take gold.

Third at the bell, she made her move on the back straight and Courtney was able to battle ahead of Australian pair Linden Hall and Georgia Griffith for bronze on her Commonwealth Games debut.

For 24-year-old Courtney, who only took up running as training for her competitive swimming career, it is a major landmark. Her most significant previous medal came as part of the mixed relay team at the 2017 European Cross-Country Championships.

Normally based in Loughborough, she spent the winter training at altitude in France and Kenya in preparation for the Games.

“I’m in complete shock, I can’t believe I ran that fast,” said Courtney, who clocked 4:03.44.

“I felt strong in the last 100m, the crowd were going crazy, and I’d tried to pretend the crowd were cheering for me as I came past the Aussie. I’ve got so many family and fans out here, it’s my first big final, and it went so well.”

Semenya will now turn her sights to her shorter specialist distance, in which she has hinted at an attempt on Jarmila Kratochvilova’s 1983 world record, the oldest global mark in the book.

The heats are on Thursday with the final on Friday.

The Australian home crowd roared home Madison de Rozario in the T54 1500m, but could not help propel compatriot Kurt Fearnley to victory in the men’s race. Canada’s Alexandre Dupont held strong along the home straight to upgrade his Glasgow 2014 bronze to gold.

There was disappointment for England’s Andrew Pozzi and Sophie Hitchon, who both missed out on medals.

Pozzi finished sixth in the 110m hurdles, with Jamaican duo Ronald Levy and Hansle Parchment taking gold and silver respectively and Australia’s Nicholas Hough third.

Pozzi, who hit the first hurdle, accepted he “wasn’t good enough”.

Hitchon, who won bronze in the hammer at Glasgow 2014 and the 2016 Olympics, failed to register a throw.

England have won only two medals from the opening three days of athletics action.

Nick Miller claimed men’s hammer gold before Tom Bosworth’s silver in the 20km walk.

Pozzi, 25, won gold in the 60m hurdles at the World Indoor Championships in March, but this performance was nowhere near as slick as the final in Birmingham as he registered a time of 13.53 seconds.

And he admits he never recovered his momentum as the Jamaican pair went away from him and his technique faltered under the pressure.

“I was trying to play catch-up but I rushed it,” he told BBC Sport.

“I started to make some headway but through rushing things made mistakes and it just wasn’t good.

“There were several people who did a better job and they got what they deserved.”

With Jamaica’s world and Olympic champion Omar McLeod opting to miss the Games, Pozzi knows there are more testing fields to overcome if he wants to claim major medals.

Hitchon’s ‘new technique’

Hitchon, the only one of the women’s hammer field to have made last year’s World Championship final in London, fouled out with three no-throws.

“It just wasn’t quite there. The warm-ups were really good but it just didn’t happen,” the 26-year-old said.

“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. It’s track and field; it happens sometimes – I didn’t execute so it didn’t quite work.

“No-one thought I was going to win a medal in Rio, so, two years out from Tokyo, I’ll be ready for it.”

Makwala eases to victory

Isaac Makwala justified his status as heavy favourite for the 400m with an assured victory.

Last summer, he was denied the chance to compete in the final at the World Championships as athletics’ governing body barring him from the London Stadium in case he passed a sickness bug to other athletes.

It would have taken a similarly extraordinary turn of events to deny the 32-year-old here as he strolled home in 44.35 seconds, well clear of compatriot Baboloki Thebe.

Once again however, he was denied a chance to test himself in a major final against Wayde van Niekerk.

The South African, who added the world crown to his Olympic title in London last summer, missed the trip to the Gold Coast with a knee injury.

The pair last met in a major 400m final back at the Worlds at Beijing 2015, where Makwala finished fourth behind a victorious Van Niekerk.

Progress for Scotland and England athletes

Scotland’s flagbearer Eilidh Doyle, who has silver medals from the past two Commonwealth Games, overcame an outside-lane draw to make the 400m hurdles final.

The 31-year-old has not raced over barriers since September but looked assured as she won her heat in 54.80 seconds.

British record holder Dina Asher-Smith of England also eased through to the next round in the 200m, easing up well before the line as she won her heat in 23.28.

Double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson of Jamaica and Rio 2016’s 400m gold medallist Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas also advanced with victories in one of the most eagerly awaited events of the meet.

With 74 entrants, the men’s 200m has the biggest field of any athletics event at the Games. England’s Zharnel Hughes, attempting to recapture the form that took him to fifth in the 2015 World Championships at just 20, was second fastest into the semi-finals in 20.34 seconds.

England’s Kyle Langford and Scotland’s Jake Wightman progressed to the 800m final, with Botswana’s defending champion and London 2012 silver medallist Nijel Amos fastest into Thursday’s medal-decider.

Defending decathlon champion Damian Warner threw away a 223-point lead in the eighth event of the men’s decathlon, failing to clear his opening height of 4.50m in the pole vault to sink his bid for gold.

Canadian Warner, who had hoped to break the Commonwealth Games points record set by Daley Thompson in 1986, slipped out of contention as Grenada’s Lindon Victor took advantage and gold. – bbc.com

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