It was 2009 when an eighteen year old athlete from South Africa won the 800m World title at her first international meet, and within days the whole world was talking about her; Regrettably not because of her athletic achievement, but because of all of the invasive, embarrassing and incredibly public gender tests, a result of her muscular build and sudden improvement.
That eighteen year old was Caster Semenya. A name most sports lovers will remember.
She did retreat back to rural South Africa after the speculation as to whether she was in fact a female whirled around her. It is remarkable that she did not simply retire and walk away from all the speculation and hurt that she must have had to endure.
However after an enforced IAAF 11 month layoff, a dip in form, a niggling injury, a split with her coach as well as worries as to whether she could in fact afford financially to continue competing, Semenya will head to London as one of South Africa’s best hopes of a medal.
Now still just 21 she wants her running to do the talking for her, and understandably rarely gives media interviews, and is just happy to be training under new coach Maria Mutola, herself a former World and Olympic 800m Champion.
Semenya burst onto the scene in 2009, when she won the 800m at the African Junior Championships in a time of 1:56:72. Her first run under two minutes and the fastest time in the world at that time in that year. Three weeks later she won the World Championships with a time of 1:55:45 apparently achieved just hours after having under gone gender tests. The IAAF then sidelined her to carry out more tests.
The tests have been carried out and she has been granted the right to compete. One has to say that if she can come through the last three years and stand on the podium in London with a medal around her neck, she will have proven that she truly is a woman with incredible resolve and who deserves our respect. After all she has been through, one wonders if she will even notice the expectation of a nation as she takes to the track.