Caster Semenya Dominates Diamond League 800 Metres
In her last 800-metre race before the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) new policy on testosterone levels goes into effect, Caster Semenya won in the same poised, dominant style that has earned her two Olympic and three world championship gold medals.
All eyes were on the middle distance star at the Diamond League meeting in Doha, Qatar, on Friday, when Semenya claimed the victory in a world lead and meet record time of 1:54.98.
Semenya, 28, entered the competition two days after the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) announced its rejection of the appeal made by Semenya against the IAAF’s proposed regulations on high testosterone in female athletes. The 800 metres in Doha could have been her last, unless she decides to take hormone suppressants to lower her testosterone levels in accordance to the ruling.
In the wake of the ruling, Semenya pressed forward. From the starting line, she joined the pacemaker, who brought the pack through the first 400 metres of the race in 56.66 seconds with Semenya and fellow competitor Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi in tow.
With every step after the bell, Semenya extended her lead beyond the rest of the field. By the 600-metre mark, she had a 0.4-second lead over Niyonsaba and 2.2-seconds on the rest of the competition. With 200 metres remaining, her lead continued to grow, until she crossed the finish line almost three seconds ahead of Niyonsaba and nearly four seconds ahead of third-place finisher Ajee Wilson from the U.S.
Semenya’s final time of 1:54.98 is just shy of her personal best and Diamond League record of 1:54.25.
After her victory, Semenya told local reporters that she will continue to push on.
“For me, I believe nothing is hard in life because it is up to you how you take life. As an athlete, I believe in sportsmanship and what sports teaches you is to keep pushing on despite all odds,” she said. “One of my firm beliefs is that there is always a way out for everything. So if a wall is placed in front of me, I jump it. I’m going to keep enjoying my life and live it. I will keep on training and running. To me, impossibility is nothing.”
When asked by local reporters if she would take medication to continue to compete in the 800 metres, Semenya replied, “Hell no,” according to BBC Sport. She shared that her plan is to defend her 800-metre world championship title in Doha this summer, and that she will not switch events, according to Andy Richardson of Aljazeera.
I asked Caster Semenya if she would take medication in line with CAS ruling. “Hell no” her response. Says her plan is to still run 800m
— Andy Richardson (@AndyR_Sport) May 3, 2019
“No man, or any other human, can stop me from running,” Semenya told BBC Sport.
The IAAF’s new policy, which goes into effect on 8 May, will force women who are hyperandrogenic (who have high testosterone levels) to medically suppress their testosterone to below 5 nmols/litre – and maintain those levels for six months before competition – in order to race in events between the 400 metres and one mile.
Semenya, who earned Olympic gold in the 800 metres in 2012 and 2016, has 30 days to appeal the CAS ruling to the Swiss Federal Tribunal, according to CNN.
Additional reporting by Hailey Middlebrook.