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Semenya braced for inevitable controversy

2016-08-16 19:51
Caster Semenya (Getty Images)

Cape Town - South African 800m runner, Caster Semenya, is no stranger to controversy.

The athlete has been plagued by a nearly constant debate over whether or not she should be allowed to compete in the women's 800m since she burst onto the scene, winning gold at the 2009 World Championships.

In the immediate aftermath of her victory, it was announced the athlete would be subjected to gender testing, a decision that outraged the South African government, who accused the IAAF of racism.

The athlete herself is keen to highlight that she is a human being first - and an athlete second.

Semenya, who has been subject to a strict media ban while in Rio said: "I am not a fake. I am natural. I am just being Caster. I don't want to be someone I don't want to be. I don't want to be someone people want me to be. I just want to be me. I was born like this. I don't want any changes."

Whatever is written or said about Semenya, she has been cleared to compete at the Rio Games and, as the fastest woman over 800 metres this year, is the clear favourite to take gold, with many tipping her to break the world record.

Semenya is a figure that polarises opinion - considered an icon of the LGBTQ community in South Africa, but subject to cruel and unusual criticism globally.

The athlete herself is committed to keep running, even if banned from competing with women due to her naturally high levels of testosterone.

The runner added: "Running is what I will always do,

"Even if, maybe, the authorities could have stopped me from running in 2009, they could not have stopped me in the fields. I would have carried on with my running, it doesn't matter. When I run I feel free, my mind is free."

Semenya has a very real shot of claiming the 800-metre gold in Rio. Whether or not she gets to keep that medal and remain running competitively, only time and the Court for the Arbitration of Sport will tell.

The competition she will be facing up to in Rio will include Burundi's Francine Niyonsaba, who currently sits in second on the IAAF Diamond league standings for the women's 800 metres. She won the Birmingham meeting in June in Semenya's absence.

The United Sates will be pinning their hopes on World Indoor Championships 2016 silver medalist Ajee Wilson.

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