Caster shatters Zola’s 34-year-old record

Caster Semenya, who raised a clenched fist during the Commonwealth Games medal ceremony in Gold Coast, Australia, broke the game's records in both 800 m and 1500 m, as she won gold for South Africa. In the process she also shattered Zola Budd's longstanding South African 1500-m record. PHOTO: RODGER SEDRES / GALLO

The South African 1500-m record, which was held by the legendary Free State athlete Zola Budd for 34 years, has finally been broken and now belongs to Caster Semenya.

The three-time world, two-time Olympic and now two-time Commonwealth Games champion, Semenya, finally shattered the record when she won her second gold medal at the Gold Coast, Australia.

Earlier in the year, Semenya had a crack at the record during the South African national championships in Pretoria, however, she fell way short in her first attempt.

On Tuesday she dominated the field to make light work of the final to win in a blistering time of 4:00.71 and in the process not only set a new South African benchmark, but recorded a new Commonwealth Games record.

Semenya shaved more than a second off Budd’s 4:01.81 national mark, which was set way back in 1984.

Upon arriving back in South Africa, Semenya conceded that it’s not easy competing in the distance she is not as well known for, as the 800 m. “The 1500 m is not an easy race to run,” she said.

In 1984 Zola Budd broke the South African 1500m record as 17-year-old school girl, when she attended Hoërskool Sentraal in Bloemfontein.

“You need to master your skills, you need to know when to kick, and you need to know how to position yourself.

“You are lucky when you kick and destroy the field, but it’s obviously farther than the distance that I normally do, the 800 m, and 500 m after the bell is not easy. With what we do in training, I think that we are ready to master this middle distance event.”

She added that the record of Budd was her goal for the season and admitted that she did not expect the race to be as fast as it was down-under. “Breaking the record was my main goal for this season. After running a 4:02.00 at the world championships I knew I was in the right shape to shave off more than 1 second of that time. The plan was to go out there and run at a 4:01.00, but I wasn’t expecting a race as fast as it was.

“It was just amazing to break a 34-year-old record and being able to put you name there is something that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

Budd, who famously ran barefoot, now resides in South Carolina in the USA, declined to comment on Semenya breaking her record. This was due to the untimely passing of her brother recently.

Earlier in the week she did, however, state that records are meant to be broken in order for the sport to grow.

“Records are there to be broken and that is what improves our sport,” the former
5 000m world record holder said.

Amazingly, the 800 m and 1500 m gold medals at the Commonwealth Games were Semenya’s first, as she withdrew from 2010 Games in New Delhi, and in 2014 did not meet Sascoc’s requirements to compete in the Glasgow Games. – MORGAN PIEK