What a clock up. A faulty timing system marred the final Liquid Telecom Athletix Grand Prix event in Paarl on Thursday night, leaving spectators and athletes confused about the times.
On the plus side, the athletes delivered some great contests, with Akani Simbine, who had to withdraw from the SA championships last weekend, showing recently returned 100m champion Simon Magakwe just who’s the boss.
In the 200m, national champion Luxolo Adams chased down the more experienced Anaso Jobodwana, the 2015 world champion, over the final metres to snatch a dramatic victory. The trackside clock said lightning had struck in both races, that Simbine had gone 9.85 and Adams 19.78.
In reality, they had gone 10.08 and 20.01.
At least there was no timing required in the long jump, where home-town favourite Ruswahl Samaai thrilled the fans as he won with a leap of 8.39m.
He recorded five jumps over 8m, a distance neither Zarck Visser nor Khotso Mokoena could reach.
And Rocco van Rooyen, who hails from Cape Town’s northern suburbs, won the men’s javelin, throwing a modest 75.20m as Kenya’s 2015 world champion Julius Yego ended fourth on 73.34m.
Most of the talk ahead of this meet at the Dal Josaphat stadium had been about Caster Semenya and her bid to break Zola Budd’s 34-year-old 1,500m record.
As the starter’s gun sounded, a technician was working on the trackside clock, which was dead to the world at that moment.
Luckily the clock on the giant TV screen was working, or so spectators thought, and it showed that Semenya, who had been closely tailed by US-based Dom Scott until she accelerated on the final lap, was on track to beat Budd’s 4min 01.81sec mark. The crowd lapped up every moment of the race, cheering them all the way.
As Semenya stormed down the home straight the clock said she was going to smash the mark, 3:55, 3:56 and 3:57 as she hit the line. Okay, maybe it was 3:58. Not a chance — the clock suddenly tele-transported to 4:02.50, even slower than Semenya’s 4:01.99 best.
But Semenya insisted that she was not disappointed, saying she was happy with her performance. "I was just more focused on my rhythm. I’m not here to break a record.