Records, controversy put aside as Semenya focuses on 800m final
For all that the SA Olympic Committee (Sascoc) had not planned to protect Caster Semenya, they ensured she was whipped past the media after her 800m heat yesterday.
Semenya ran a well-controlled race, attacking on the final bend to take the lead and comfortably hold off her nearest rivals to win in 1min 59.31sec to qualify automatically for tonight’s semifinals.
Semenya, the 2009 world champion and 2012 Olympic silver medallist, is believed to be intersex and, as a result, receiving advantage from extra testosterone produced naturally by her body.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled last year that female athletes did not need to take hormonal suppressants because there was no proof that natural testosterone gave athletes an unfair advantage.
CAS gave the IAAF, the world governing body for athletics, until next year to submit proof to reverse the decision.
The case had been brought by Indian sprinter Dutee Chand, who failed to progress past the women’s 100m heats in Rio, ending seventh in her race and 50th out of a total field of 64.
Semenya’s lifetime best performances this year have been closely scrutinised, with much criticism directed at her, even though she had nothing to do with the CAS ruling.
In the build-up to these Games, Sascoc had insisted it was not planning any special measures to shield Semenya, but yesterday she was ushered through the mixed zone by a team official without stopping for interviews.
It was a fairly deserted mixed zone with few journalists there compared with what she is likely to face after tonight’s semifinals. Some of her rivals did stop to talk, but they refused to speak out against her.
British runner Shelayna Oskan-Clarke, who ran in the same heat as Semenya, said the South African was entitled to compete.
Canadian Melissa Bishop, the fastest of the morning in 1:58.38, declined to be drawn on the issue. Semenya, the sixth-fastest in the morning heats, said the conditions had been difficult.
“It was not easy, it was pretty hot outside,” she said in a brief recorded interview. “I was just trying to hang on, trying to feel my body first so I could feel comfor table.
“I tried to get just top two on the last 200m and try to win so I could be safe for the semifinals.”
Some say she can break Jarmilla Kratochvilova’s 1:53.28 world record, but Semenya insisted she was targeting the podium, not times.
“To be honest, I’m not really focused on the records, I’m just focused more on doing my championships so I can run my better 800m.
“Times don’t matter in championships.
The medals [are] gold medal, silver or bronze, so those are targets.” Asked if she had any injury concerns, she replied: “No, no, no, I’m trying just to comfortmyself, obviously just try to run