Wednesday, August 19, 2009

South African Semenya Grabs Gold Medal in Berlin

SA's Semenya grabs gold in Berlin

BERLIN, GERMANY - Aug 19 2009 21:55

South African teenager Caster Semenya, whose rapid improvement has prompted officials to order a gender verification test, won the women's world 800m title with a crushing performance on Wednesday.

Powerfully built but beautifully relaxed in motion, the 18-year-old clocked one minute, 55,45 seconds for the year's fastest time and a personal best by more than a second.

Kenyan world champion and Olympic silver medallist Janeth Jepkosgei was more than 15m adrift for second in 1:57,90.

Fast-closing Jenny Meadows of Britain snatched third, three-hundredths of a second behind Jepkosgei in another personal best.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) allowed Semenya to run with the gender test still ongoing, spokesperson Nick Davies said earlier on Wednesday.

"It would be wrong today to take a decision to withdraw an athlete," he said.

Officials also decided to keep Semenya away from the traditional post-race news conference. -- Reuters

Under-fire Semenya set to run, says athletics body


Athletics South Africa (ASA) on Wednesday denied media reports that Caster Semenya was in danger of not competing in the evening final of the women's 800m at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin.

According to an Australian website, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) had "conducted physical tests and genital screening to try to determine the legitimacy of Semenya's sex". A meeting between officials would determine whether or not she would compete in the final, where she lines up as one of the favourites for the gold medal, the report added.

But a member of the ASA delegation said they did not know what tests had been done on the 18-year-old -- although tests were done -- and the results would not be made available to them for at least another few weeks.

"There are no rules to stop her from running," said the unnamed source.

The athlete’s coach, Michael Seme, speaking on Wednesday from Semenya's base at the University of Pretoria, where she is studying sports science, said: "That's all nonsense [about her not running], and she will run because this matter will be closed for another few weeks or even months."

He also dismissed the controversy over Semenya's gender. "I have been working with Caster since January and I can tell you now that I have been training a girl, not a boy," he told the Mail & Guardian. "It is very upsetting that she has to undergo all these tests just hours before the most important race of her career. This is psychologically disruptive."

Seme questioned the motive behind the rushed tests on athletes not competing for the first time in the international arena. "While the IAAF is well within its rights to conduct tests on any medal winner, the timing is suspicious. After all, she competed in the Junior Championships in Poland early this year and won. I would have expected that thorough tests for drugs and even gender were done then," he said.

Seme was convinced that these distractions would not deter his athlete. "I have just got off the phone with her and she sounded cheerful. I told her to do as they [IAAF] say and remain focused."

Semenya's gender has been questioned since the teenager burst on to the scene earlier this season when she broke Zola Budd's South African junior mark in the two-lap event.

And after she improved to a world-leading 1:56,72 to win the African junior title in Mauritius three weeks ago, rumours continued to spread.

A muscular physique for a girl her age, facial hair and a deep-toned voice have all raised suspicions.

As far as ASA was aware, the youngster was still eligible to compete in the 9.35pm final where they hoped she would pick up the nation's first World Championship medal in six years.

Cool Semenya powers into 800m finals

Aug 18 2009 08:49

South Africa Caster Semenya looked every bit the medallist when qualifying through her 800m semifinal at the 12th World Athletics championships in Berlin on Monday night.

The 18 year old adopted similar tactics to the first round sitting in behind first lap leader Tetliana Petlyuk, the 2008 world Indoor Champion.

As the bell rang in 58,11 seconds, Semenya moved to the front, responding to all attempts to chase. The Polokwane based athlete crossed the line in one minute 58,66, silencing any doubts that her 1:56,72 in African Junior Championship was a fluke.

"When I woke this morning I knew my leg was fine. I knew I could run to win," said Semenya, who will determine her final tactics with her coach Michael Seme.

Defending World Champion, Janeth Jepkosgei, who fell in Semenya's first round heat and was reinstated for the semi's, held on for third behind the fast finishing Jennifer Meadows from Britain in 1:59,47.

Even her strongest opposition is wary of the new kid on the block. A fast race suits me but anything can happen in the final. I think the South African could give me problems, said the Kenyan.

Semenya became only fourth South African to break the two minute, and in doing so took over two seconds from Zelda Pretorius's 1991 record.

The semifinal journey was not comfortable for Peter van der Westhuizen whose fast start put him out in front of the first of three semifinals. Forced into front running the Kempton Park man took the field through to the bell Frenchman Mehdi Baala took to the front with Americans Bernard Lagat and Lopez Lomong wasting no time in following the lead.

By the final bend van der Westhuizen had been swallowed up and spat out the rear of the field facing a hopeless task. Moroccan Amin Laalou pulled the five qualifiers through in 3:36,68.

"I don't know what I could have done differently. It's not where I wanted to be [at the front] I had a better chance of a fast race even though I sacrificed myself doing it," said van der Westhuizen, who has little reason to be disappointed in his first major championship.

South African attention moves forward to the 3000m steeplechase where Ruben Ramolefi faces a 15-strong field.

The Kenyans have dominated this event with defending world champion Brimin Kipruto, 2004 Olympic Champion and current world leader Ezekiel Kemboi and Paul Koech, who has cracked eight minutes six times, providing an awesome trio to tackle. Add in Frenchman Bouabdella Tahri and fifth ranked Tareq Mubrak and the South African has a mountain to climb.

On Tuesday morning session Thuso Mpuang is in the ninth and final heat of 200m, which marks the commencement of part two of the Usain Bolt -- Tyson Gay Sprinting Sensation. Pieter Smith faces up to Helsinki and Osaka champion Jeremy Warner in the sixth heat of the 400m. -- Sapa

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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