‘Over the moon’ Sekgodiso eyes Olympic final after world lead

Prudence Sekgodiso set a new 800m world lead and a personal best in winning the Diamond League event in Morocco on Sunday. Photo: AFP

Prudence Sekgodiso set a new 800m world lead and a personal best in winning the Diamond League event in Morocco on Sunday. Photo: AFP

Published May 22, 2024


Prudence Sekgodiso “felt like crying” after setting a new 800m personal best, but she knows that she needs to peak at the Paris Olympics to have any thoughts of a medal.

The 22-year-old middle-distance star marshalled the field superbly to clinch her first Diamond League victory in Marrakech, Morocco, on Sunday night in a superb time of 1:57.26, which was also the world lead for this year – eclipsing the mark of 1:57.56 set the day before in Los Angeles by Uganda’s Halima Nakaayi.

It was the first time that Sekgodiso broke through the 1:57 barrier, with her previous best of 1:58.05 run in Pretoria in March.

The success in Marrakech was a testament to her hard work in the early part of the season, where she won the SA 1 500m title and even came second in the 5 000m to ensure that her endurance levels were increased.

Her improvement was evident on Sunday night as she maintained her patience over the first lap, maintaining a steady pace right until the last 70m before she sped past Ethiopian Habitam Alemu, who had to settle for second in 1:57.70.

“I’m so excited! I’m over the moon – I cannot wait to speak to my coach (Samuel Sepeng) and hear what he has to say,” the TUKS Sport athlete told the Diamond League YouTube channel.

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“I don’t know... I feel like crying! But I can’t because my coach is not here and I don’t know who I’m going to cry to.

“But I just want to get to my phone and reply to all the messages.

“First, I looked around the stadium and it was just packed. The atmosphere was quite amazing, to be honest, and the weather wasn’t too bad.

“But while I was running, the only thing that was on my mind was my coach’s words, and I did it! I’m just excited.

“At the bell, there was nothing in my mind as I trained hard to be here and to be at that pace – I was prepared for it. It didn’t amaze me, and I just went for it.”

Comparisons with former double SA Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya have been inevitable, but Sekgodiso has said before that she wants to undertake her own journey in the two-lap event.

But glory at the Paris Olympics is not out of the question, as her time on Sunday would have been the fifth-fastest in the world last year, behind American Athing Mu (1:54.97), Britain’s Keely Hodgkinson (1:55.19), Jamaica’s Natoya Goule-Toppin (1:55.96) and Kenya’s Mary Moraa (1:56.03).

“I didn’t expect to run so fast. Winning was in my mind, but not with such a fast time. It’s crazy fast. I am so proud of myself tonight,” Sekgodiso said.

“Achieving a world lead and a personal best is just amazing.

“But I cannot say that this performance will change something for me in terms of goals and expectations.

“For the Paris Olympics, I will try to reach the final. I want to be in the big eight.

“My next race will be in Nancy (on Saturday) – then I will run in Diamond League in Stockholm (June 2).”

The other South Africans in action in Marrakech were Lythe Pillay, who came fourth in the men’s 400m in a time of 44.78, and Zeney Geldenhuys, who was also fourth in the women’s 400m hurdles in 55.28.