GOLD COAST, Australia (Reuters) - South Africa’s Caster Semenya completed a middle distance double in emphatic style and Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei followed with a distance double as Commonwealth Games records tumbled on the penultimate day of track and field on Friday.
The packed house would have been expecting to cheer on local Sally Pearson in the 100 metres hurdles when they bought their tickets but were instead treated to top class athletics from Olympic and world champions from further afield.
There was disappointment for Australia’s neighbours New Zealand when Valerie Adams failed in her attempt to win an unprecedented fourth consecutive shot put gold, but there was no disputing the quality of the track races.
South African Semenya smashed the Games record to win the 1,500m on Tuesday and another Commonwealth mark always looked on the cards in her favoured 800m from the moment she hit the front on the first bend.
The Olympic and world champion was soon into her powerful stride and crossed the line 1.39 seconds clear of Kenyan Margaret Wambui, who won bronze behind Semenya at the Rio Olympics.
Semenya’s time of one minute 56.68 seconds took nearly a second off the Games record and will surely convince her to double up at next year’s world championships in Doha and perhaps the Olympics that follow in 2020.
That is all dependent, of course, on the anticipated change to the rules over testosterone levels in female athletes not forcing her out of the sport given the hyperandrogenism that causes an unusually high level of the hormone in her body.
“Being able to win the double is a memory I’ll never forget but I’m doing this for the youth to show them that anything is possible, if you believe,” she said.
Cheptegei beat Canada’s Mohammed Ahmed to win the 5,000m last weekend and the 10,000m ended up as another last-lap duel between the pair with the Ugandan easing away on the final straight to win in 27.19.62, another Games record.
There was also Canadian frustration in the 3,000m steeplechase where Conseslus Kipruto led Abraham Kibiwott and Amos Kirui to a sixth successive Kenyan sweep of the Commonwealth podium.
Olympic and world champion Kipruto waved his compatriots home after the final jump as Matthew Hughes threatened to get amongst them, the Canadian throwing himself over the line in a desperate attempt to pip Kirui.
“I’m absolutely gutted,” said Hughes. “The Kenyans just come in here and do whatever they want and no one ever tries to mess with their plans.
“I tried to get in the lead there with the 250m to go, I just couldn’t get myself over the line.”
Jamaica, which failed to win a single one of the four individual sprint titles, again enjoyed success in some unlikely events.
Fedrick Dacres and Traves Smikle took a 1-2 in the men’s discus but it was Danniel Thomas-Dodd who sprung the biggest surprise of the evening by hurling a personal best 19.36m with her final throw to relegate Adams to silver.
“Today I left my heart out there, it was a great fight,” said the twice Olympic and four-times world champion.
“Danniel deserved to win today, she threw a massive throw. She’s young, she’s strong, she’s in shape...”
Earlier, England’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson won heptathlon gold with a score of 6255, while Canada’s Alysha Newman got one of the biggest cheers of the night when she cleared a Games record 4.75m at the first attempt to win the pole vault.
That cheer might have gone to Gold Coast golden girl Sally Pearson had the world 100m hurdles champion not been forced to drop out of the Games with an Achilles injury.
In her absence, Nigeria’s Oluwatobiloba Amusan put together a brilliant display of high hurdling to power to victory in 12.68 seconds.
(This version was refiled to correct spelling of Semenya)
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Christian Radnedge