Long jumper Luvo Manyonga won a tight battle against countryman Ruswahl Samaai, while Caster Semenya coasted to victory in the women’s 800m race, with both athletes retaining their titles at the first leg of the annual Diamond League series finals in Zurich on Thursday night.
Defending champion Manyonga, who lined up as the favourite in the men’s long jump in the absence of Cuban star Juan Miguel Echevarria, took the early lead with a leap of 8.32 metres in the opening round.
Samaai fought back, however, landing at 8.30m with his second attempt, and the duo opened a gap on the rest of the field as the competition evolved into a tussle between the South Africans for the series crown.
Having earned a rare victory over his compatriot to retain his title at the recent African Championships, Samaai looked set to snatch another superb victory when he moved in front in the fourth round, matching Manyonga’s 8.32m effort to take the lead on count back.
Manyonga saved his best for last, however, producing a jump of 8.36m with the final attempt of the competition to seal a dramatic win by four centimetres.
Earlier, Semenya had lit up the track with another dominant front-running performance to win the Diamond League 800m crown for the third year in succession.
She crossed the line in 1:55.27, more than two seconds clear of her nearest opponent, American Ajee Wilson who clocked 1:57.86 in second place.
It was a relatively disappointing turnout, meanwhile, by the rest of the SA contingent.
Cornel Fredericks was the best of the rest, ending fifth in the men’s 400m hurdles contest in 49.96.
In other disciplines, 100m sprinter Carina Horn (11.54), 200m runner Luxolo Adams (20.51) and 400m specialist Pieter Conradie (47.37) all finished seventh in their respective events, while 400m hurdler Wenda Nel settled for eighth position in 57.23.
Sprinter Akani Simbine was the only SA athlete in the start lists for the second leg of the Diamond League finals in Brussels on Friday night.
The national 100m record holder was aiming to add the series trophy to the Commonwealth and African titles he won earlier this season.