South Africa pair upstage Blake in 100 at Commonwealth Games
GOLD COAST, Australia (AP) — Akani Simbine led Henricho Bruintjies in a surprising South Africa 1-2 finish in the 100 meters at the Commonwealth Games that may have Yohan Blake thinking twice about going home to Jamaica.
The 2011 world champion entered Monday night’s final as the hot favorite after posting the quickest time of the season and in the first two rounds on the Gold Coast, but stumbled early and never regained his form against the two runners to his right.
Simbine, who was fifth at the 2016 Olympics and at last year’s world titles, won in 10.03 second, with Bruintjies second in 10.17. Blake was 0.02 further back to get bronze after a photo finish with Nigeria’s Seye Ogunlewe.
The Jamaicans had already missed out on gold in the women’s 100, which went to Michelle-Lee Ahye of Trinidad and Tobago.
So the pressure on Blake intensified. Even more so because recently retired world record-holder Usain Bolt, the only man with a faster career-best time than Blake’s 9.69, joked that his old training partner may not be welcome home if he didn’t win the title on the Gold Coast.
“Maybe I was too confident and over thought it,” said Blake, who appeared to be uncharacteristically quiet behind the blocks. “I’m disappointed because I’ve been feeling good. I didn’t get the start and I was all over the place — I couldn’t catch the field as I wanted to.
“I was supposed to take this very easily because I was ready and feeling good. It was just never meant to be, I guess.”
Simbine said running in the lane between Bruintjies and Blake worked perfectly for strategy, which was primarily to get in front of the Jamaican early.
“Being able to run in lane 8-9 with Henricho, and placing first and second with him is amazing,” he said. “It’s a big thing for South African sprinting and South African sport.”
Ahye won her first gold medal at a major international meet, celebrating with an air punch as she crossed the finish line in 11.14 and relegated Jamaicans Christania Williams (11.21) and Gayon Evans (11.22) to silver and bronze. England’s Asha Philip was fourth.
The win for Ahye, a finalist at the 2016 Olympics and the last two world championships, delivered Trinidad and Tobago its first Commonwealth title in the women’s 100 and meant a Jamaican hasn’t won the title since 2006. Although, it came in the absence of the top Jamaican, Elaine Thompson, who won the Olympic 100-200 double in 2016 but is only running the 200 on the Gold Coast.
“I think my family and country will be very proud,” Ahye said. “It means a lot.”
World champion Tom Walsh won the shot put gold for New Zealand at 21.41 meters after a setting a games record 22.45 in qualifying.
Nigeria’s Chukwuebuka Enekwechi took silver at 21.14, narrowly ahead of 2014 champion O’Dayne Richards of Jamaica.
Ugandans collected gold and bronze in the women’s 10,000 meters, with Stella Chesang letting the Kenyans set the pace for most of the 25-lap race before surging late to win in 31 minutes, 45.30 seconds. Stacy Ndiwa held off a late charge by Mercyline Chelangat to secure silver for Kenya.
In other high-profile events, Olympic and world 800-meter champion Caster Semenya started her quest for a games double with a commanding win in the heats of the 1,500.
The South Africa flag bearer dictated the race from the front, setting the pace the whole way and finishing in 4 minutes, 5.86 seconds to lead all qualifiers into the final.
Isaac Makwala won his 400 semifinal in 45.00 and then did three press ups as his rivals slumped behind him, heaving in deep breaths.
The Botswana runner, who reached the 200 final at last year’s world championships days after being refused entry to the stadium for the 400 final because of quarantine restrictions amid a viral outbreak, is targeting his first medal at a major meet. Javon Francis of Jamaica was next fastest at 45.38 and India’s Muhammed Anas Yahiya reached the final by winning his heat in 45.44.
After the first five events in the decathlon, defending champion Damian Warner has a 129-point lead over Canada teammate Pierce Lepage.
The Olympic bronze medalist opened with his season-best 10.29 in the 100, threw a personal best 15:11 meters in the shot put, recorded 7.54 in the long jump and a season-best 2.04 in the high jump. He capped off day one by winning his 400 in 48.12 for a total of 4,509 points.