RIO 2016

South Africa’s Semenya strides to 800m gold

Caster Semenya produced an impressive performance to live up to her billing as a heavy favourite and win the women’s 800 metre final at Rio 2016.

Semenya had been tipped by some to challenge the longest-standing world record in track and field, the time of one minute and 53.28 seconds recorded by Jarmila Kratochvilova in July 1983.

That feat proved beyond the South African on this occasion, but she was nevertheless able to triumph comfortably in a new personal best and national record of 1:55.28, therefore improving on the silver medal she claimed at the London Games four years ago.

Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba, who attacked at the start of lap two only to be overhauled on the final bend, and Margaret Wambui of Kenya took silver and bronze respectively.

However, Semenya was able to prevail by more than a second after surging clear of the field down the home straight.

Semenya arrived in Rio having displayed outstanding form, but her victory is unfortunately likely to prompt further awkward questions relating to the elevated testosterone levels produced by the 25-year-old.

Her stunning breakthrough victory as a teenager at the 2009 World Championships was overshadowed – by reasons beyond her control – when she was humiliatingly subjected to gender verification tests.

The IAAF duly adopted new rules and regulations governing the eligibility of females with hyperandrogenism in 2011 – effectively meaning anyone with testosterone levels above a certain limit was required to take hormones in order to lower them.

However, this ruling was reversed last year when Indian sprinter Dutee Chand successfully appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which suspended the practice of testosterone regulation and challenged the IAAF to present better evidence by July 2017.

Semenya has gone on to dominate her strongest event in 2016 and her emphatic victory on Saturday came as no surprise.

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