Cape Town - South Africa's elite athletes have opened the 2020 season with a bang as they begin their early build-up towards the Tokyo Olympics and international campaigns.
Over the weekend, Caster Semenya and Akani Simbine set new national bests over unofficial distances at the Backtrack Newton Classic Shootout meeting held at the University of Johannesburg (UJ).
Semenya, who is awaiting a court decision to determine whether she will be able to defend her Olympic 800m title in Tokyo this year or not, won the women's 300m race in 36.78, slicing 0.24 off the SA best which had been set by Heide Seyerling in Sydney nearly 20 years ago.
Also competing at UJ, African 100m champion Akani Simbine took the men's 150m race in 15.08.
Simbine equalled the SA best set by Anaso Jobodwana in March 2018, holding off a challenge from national 200m record holder Clarence Munyai, who finished second in 15.13.
Elsewhere in the Free State on Monday night, Olympic 400m champion Wayde van Niekerk made his return from a serious knee injury, winning the men's 100m race at an in-house Kovsies meeting in Bloemfontein.
Van Niekerk, the one-lap world record holder, covered the short dash in 10.20 (hand time) on a grass track, indicating that he was back in fine form.
"This is a particularly a very important year as it takes us to the Olympics and that ups the stakes significantly," said Aleck Skhosana, the President of Athletics South Africa.
"When senior athletes get off to a good start, it inspires many aspiring and up-coming stars because they look up to them.
"With our eyes fixed on Tokyo in July, ASA urges all athletes not to lose focus on this bigger picture and wish them all a good build-up and a great season ahead."