Caster’s Rio ri­vals start whing­ing about her sex, again

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - SAMEER NAIK

CASTER Se­menya’s Olympic ri­vals – threat­ened by the po­ten­tial gold medal win­ner – are start­ing to fan the flames of con­tro­versy over the South African ath­lete’s sex.

But Se­menya is not fussed. Her at­ti­tude is, sim­ply: let’s take this out­side to the track.

In an in­ter­view with BBC Ra­dio yes­ter­day, Paula Rad­cliffe, the marathon world record holder, ques­tioned Se­menya’s ex­pected dom­i­nance in the 800m at next month’s Rio de Janeiro Games.

Se­menya, 25, is the over­whelm­ing favourite to take gold, but Rad­cliffe be­lieves her hor­monal make-up will cast a shadow over her vic­tory.

Rad­cliffe said the ex­pec­ta­tion was there would be no other re­sult than a Se­menya vic­tory: “Then it’s no longer sport and it’s no longer an open race.

“Ob­vi­ously there is an is­sue – an is­sue that needs to be un­der­stood a lot better. What con­cerns me... we’ve seen the lengths coun­tries like Rus­sia will go to, to have ma­jor suc­cess on the world stage and on the Olympic stage,” the Bri­tish run­ner said.

In 2009, after Se­menya’s vic­tory at the IAAF World Cham­pi­onships, she un­der­went a sex test, but the re­sults were never made pub­lic.

US 1 500m record holder Shan­non Row­bury has also crit­i­cised Se­menya, say­ing her go- ahead to race in Rio had chal­lenged and threat­ened the in­tegrity of women’s sports be­cause it meant “in­ter­sex” ath­letes could com­pete against women.

Se­menya’s coach, Jean Ver­ster, said yes­ter­day Se­menya had been firmly fo­cused on Rio and no amount of crit­i­cism would de­rail her am­bi­tions of win­ning gold in Brazil.

“We aren’t in­ter­ested in what other peo­ple have to say. Caster has been cleared to run and that’s all that mat­ters,” said Ver­ster.

“Peo­ple al­ways look for some sort of sen­sa­tion, be­cause they are prob­a­bly not so much on the radar as they used to be. They are try­ing to boost their own names and blow their own horns.”

Se­menya had never been both­ered by crit­i­cism, he said.

“She’s worked very hard for two years to get where she is to­day, ex­tremely hard. So much so that she breaks down some­times from the gruelling train­ing she is put through. It took her three days to re­cover from her last race. She was re­ally tired.”

Men­tally, Se­menya was also in a good frame on mind, said Ver­ster.

“She’s in a good place, she’s happy, and con­fi­dent.”

They were in a slightly lighter train­ing phase.

“Caster has worked so hard this year and last year to try and get rid of all her in­juries. It’s been a long and hard jour­ney with many sac­ri­fices.”

Ver­ster said just like ev­ery other ath­lete com­pet­ing in Rio, Caster would be aim­ing for gold.

“We don’t want to get ahead of our­selves. Caster has to get through the first round, then make the semi-fi­nals and if she’s in the fi­nal than we def­i­nitely will be aim­ing for gold.

“Any­thing can hap­pen. She wants to try and win a medal, as do many other ath­letes and she’s con­fi­dent she will give it her best shot and hope­fully it will come through.”

The Sport and Re­cre­ation Depart­ment has also given Se­menya its full back­ing.

Spokesman Esethu Hasane said: “We are not re­ally con­cerned with these kinds of com­ments made by in­di­vid­ual ath­letes. They are bring­ing up some­thing in the past that has been dealt with al­ready.

“Caster has been given the go-ahead to run and there’s nothing else to say re­ally. We con­tinue to sup­port her and she has our full back­ing go­ing into the Rio Games,” he said.

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