Two years before that Van Niekerk won 400m gold and 200m silver, Caster Semenya took 800m gold and 1,500m bronze, Luvo Manyonga claimed the long jump gold and behind him Ruswahl Samaai the bronze.
Then a series of unrelated blows knocked the medallists out of contention. Van Niekerk injured his knee in a game of touch rugby, Semenya fell foul of World Athletics’ new gender eligibility rules and refused to take testosterone-lowering medication to continue competing in her main events, and Manyonga, constantly fighting an addiction to tik, fell off the wagon.
Of the four Samaai was the only one to lose form. Simbine has been knocking on the podium door without success since 2017, but apart from that there’s been little to enthuse about in terms of new talent.
The lack of depth that existed in 2017 had been well hidden by the six medals then, but without that gloss it has been horribly exposed.
All those under-20 and under-18 world championship medals that Athletics SA trumpeted have yet to count towards the senior level.
Kyle Blignaut, the 2018 under-20 champion in shot put, has probably come the closest with his sixth spot at the Tokyo Olympics last year, but he withdrew from Eugene to focus on the Commonwealth Games that kick off in Birmingham on Friday.
The class of 2018 world junior champions also included 400m hurdler Soks Zazini, who had to watch the bronze medallist behind him four years ago, Alison dos Santos of Brazil, storm to victory in Eugene.