South Africa’s Caster Semenya brought her glittering season to an end Sunday by smashing the world record in the rarely-run 600 metres.
The 26-year-old, Olympic gold medallist and three times world champion over 800m, clocked a stunning 1min 21.77sec over the unusual distance at the ISTAF meet in the German capital.
She took 0.86sec off the previous best set by Cuba’s Ana Fidelia Quirot in 1997.
Semenya has been dogged by gender accusations since shooting to fame at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium when she won the 800m title as a teenager at the 2009 world championships.
In London earlier this month, the South African track ace won the world title over 800m for the third time following on from her 2009 and 2011 triumphs, but failed in an ambitious double bid, having to be content with just bronze in the 1500m.
Semenya said she was delighted to end her season in the German capital where she won world gold eight years ago.
“I feel at home here, always welcomed and loved. I won my first world title here, so this city is special for me,” beamed the South African.
“I wanted to deliver (the world record) to make the people here happy.”
Easier than the 800m
Semenya said she asked the organisers to put on the 600m race to test her speed as she finished 0.62sec ahead of America’s Ajee Wilson while Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba was third at 1.41sec.
“The 600m is a bit easier compared to the 800m,” she said.
“Basically it is only a 400m sprint with the focus on the last few metres to the finish line. I love speed, so I liked it.
“The season is over for me now, but I still feel a bit fresh.
“We started to train only in February so I still feel like I could compete for the next three months.”
Elsewhere on the track in Berlin, Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith took the women’s 200m final by 0.03sec from Marie-Josee Ta Lou of the Ivory Coast, the world silver-medallist over 100m and 200m in London.
“I was glad to put in a technically good race, but at the same time, I had been hoping to go faster,” said the 21-year-old Asher-Smith, who timed 22.41sec.
American Sam Kendricks, the men’s world pole vault champion, won the event in Berlin by clearing 5.86m with Poland’s Piotr Lisek second at 5cm and France’s Renaud Lavillenie third (5.71).
“Piotr was trying to beat me and he almost did, I owe him two beers now – one for Zurich and one for Berlin,” said Kendricks having also beating his Polish rival on Thursday at the Diamond League meet in Zurich.
America’s Aries Merritt, the 2012 Olympic champion, won the men’s 110m hurdles in 13.17, while Jamaica’s Julian Forte claimed victory in the 100m thanks to a personal best of 9.91sec to hold off world 200m champion Ramil Guliyev of Turkey.
“London is behind me. It was tough, but the more competitions you have, the better,” said Forte, who failed to reach the final at the worlds despite having been the fastest in the heats.
“I had been planning to peak in London, but a personal best at the end of the season is good.”