The 2017 track and field season, which came to a close with the Diamond League final in Brussels on Friday night, was one of the most successful in the nation’s history.
We look back at some of the highlights of the campaign.
Earning a record six medals, including three gold, the national team finished third on the medals table and 10th on the placings table at the World Championships in London in August. Wayde van Niekerk (400m gold and 200m silver) and Caster Semenya (800m gold and 1 500m bronze) delivered historic double-medal performances, while Luvo Manyonga (gold) and Ruswahl Samaai (bronze) reached the men’s long jump podium.
Van Niekerk and Semenya were both in record form, setting unofficial world bests. Covering the rarely run 300m distance in 30.81 in Ostrava in June, Van Niekerk clipped 0.04 off the 17-year-old global mark held by American Michael Johnson. In the women’s 600m event, Semenya clocked 1:21.77 in Berlin in August to chop 0.86 off the 20-year-old mark held by Cuba’s Ana Quirot.
Five South African athletes achieved top-five world rankings. Van Niekerk (400m, 43.62), Manyonga (long jump, 8.65m) and Semenya (800m, 1:55.16) all topped the global performance lists in their disciplines. Van Niekerk was also ranked second in the 200m sprint (19.84), Samaai was second in the long jump (8.49m), and Akani Simbine was fourth in the 100m (9.92) and fifth in the 200m (19.95).
Seven athletes broke national senior outdoor track and field records this year. Van Niekerk (200m, 19.84), Manyonga (long jump, 8.65m) Antonio Alkana (110m hurdles, 13.11), Lebogang Shange (20km walk, 1:19:18), Semenya (800m, 1:55.16), Letitia Janse van Vuuren (hammer throw, 63.82m) and Anel Oosthuizen (20km walk, 1:34:49) took their disciplines to new heights.
The national youth team raked in 11 medals at the World U-18 Championships in Nairobi in July, for the country’s largest ever haul in a major global track and field championship at any level. While a number of nations did not enter teams for the final edition of the age group showpiece, the SA youth squad did well to finish top of the medals table ahead of China and Kenya.