Caster Semenya should definitely be taken seriously in the 400m.
Semenya, the scrutinized Olympic 800m champion, won a 400m race in a massive personal best in the final Diamond League meet of the season in Brussels on Friday.
The South African clocked 50.40 seconds, taking .34 off her personal best set earlier this year. It was her first time racing 400m against a top-level international field.
Semenya came from behind in the race and beat the Rio Olympic third- and fourth-place finishers, collapsing to the track after crossing the finish line. Video is here.
“This was a cheeky one,” Semenya said, according to the IAAF. “I had to come back from behind because I’m not used to run this distance in really important meets. But I’m happy of course with my PB.”
Her time would have placed fifth in Rio, but well behind gold medalist Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas (49.44) and silver medalist Allyson Felix (49.51).
Neither Miller nor Felix was in Friday’s race.
Semenya said on July 15 that she planned to race both the 400m and 800m in Rio, setting a potential anticipated clash with Felix, but she ended up entering just the 800m, as her coach had predicted in the spring.
Earlier Friday, Jamaican Olympic champion Elaine Thompson won the 100m in 10.72 seconds (video here). Thompson now owns the three fastest times in the world this year — her national-record-tying 10.70 at the Olympic Trials, 10.71 in Rio and 10.72 on Friday.
“Honestly, I wanted faster this year, but OK, I won,” Thompson said, according to the IAAF.
Thompson became the third woman to clock sub-10.75 for the 100m at least three times in one year, joining Florence Griffith-Joyner (1988) and Marion Jones (1998).
U.S. Olympic silver medalist Sandi Morris became the third woman ever to clear five meters in the pole vault, joining 2004 and 2008 Olympic champion Yelena Isinbayeva and 2012 Olympic champion Jenn Suhr. She then took three attempts at a world-record height of 5.07 meters.
“Next season I’ll try longer poles and adept my grip to a higher grip,” Morris said, according to the IAAF. “If I master this new situation I’m sure I will break the world record soon.”
Morris then sang a line from Anna Kendrick‘s “Cups” in the post-meet news conference.
Shannon Rowbury broke Molly Huddle‘s two-year-old American record in the 5000m, finishing fifth in 14:38.92.Follow @nzaccardi