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Semenya smashes critics out the park

2016-08-21 09:23
Caster Semenya (Getty Images)

Rio de Janeiro - Caster Semenya ran the fastest 800m this year, flexed her muscles and pretended to brush the dust from her shoulders.

READ: Twitter reacts to Caster Semenya's golden run

READ: Caster Semenya takes after Madiba in Rio

According to the Stuff website, two hours later, she walked into a press conference and smashed it out of the park.

"It's all about loving one another," said the 25-year-old South African.

"It's not about discriminating people. It's not about looking at people and how they look, how they speak, how they run.

"You know, it's not about being muscular. It's about sports. When you walk out of your apartment, you think about performing. You don't think about how your opponents look. You just want to do better. I think the advice to everybody is to go out and have fun."

And with that, Semenya made as much of a statement as anything she just achieved on the track.

Semenya took gold in Rio in 1:55.28 - a personal best and a new South African record - with Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Margaret Wambui of Kenya completing the podium.

Semenya's gold was Team South Africa's 10th medal in Rio - and the 25th gold won by South Africa in their Olympic history.

Those 10 medals were made up of two golds, six silvers and two bronzes.

The 10 medals match the total won in 1920 in Antwerp and 1952 in Helsinki.

A reporter jumped at the start of the press conference to ask all three athletes if they had been forced to take hormone suppressants at any stage of their careers.

"Thank you for your question," Wambui said.

"Let this press conference focus on today. Let's not focus on the medication."

Then Semenya interjected.

"My friend, tonight is all about performance," she said.

"We're not here to talk about IAAF, we're not here to talk about some speculations. Tonight is all about performance. This press conference is about the 800m that we saw here today. So, thank you."

Semenya has been at the centre of a furious debate surrounding testosterone levels in female athletes in recent years.

After winning gold at the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin, Semenya was subjected to gender testing.

She was diagnosed with hyperandrogenism, meaning her testosterone levels are far in excess of the vast majority of women.

Semenya was banned for 11 months while the tests took place.

She was then cleared to compete by the IAAF in 2010, provided she took testosterone-lowering medication, until a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) decision in July 2015 put a stop to testosterone regulation in female athletes.

CAS gave the IAAF two years to produce evidence proving exactly how much of an advantage hyperandrogenic runners had over everyone else.

Less than two hours before the 800m final in Rio, IAAF president Seb Coe confirmed that they will soon go back to the CAS to try and overturn their 2015 decision. They are confident that they will succeed.

Current women's marathon world record holder, Britain Paula Radcliffe said that Semenya and the other hyperandrogenic women should either “take the medication to suppress the levels, or they choose to have an operation or they choose not to compete”.

Incredible as it sounds, Radcliffe is right that several hyperandrogenic athletes have undergone major surgery at the behest of athletics officials.

Radcliffe went on to explain why she felt Lynsey Sharp (Great Britain athlete who finished sixth in the 800m final in Rio) has expressed her unhappiness.

“However hard she goes away and trains, however hard Jenny Meadows (another Great Britain athlete who didn't compete in Rio) goes and trains, they are never going to be able to compete with that level of strength and recovery that those levels of elevated testosterone brings.”

"I have tried to avoid the issue all year," said Sharp.

"You can see how emotional it all was. It is out of our control. We rely on people at the top sorting it out.

"The public can see how difficult it is with the change of rule but all we can do is give it our best."

The last question for Semenya on the night was if she was happier now than in 2012. She laughed and then confirmed for the first time her marriage to fellow South African woman Violet Raseboya.

"Of course I'm happy," she smiled.

"That's what happens when you get married."

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