A week ago Caster Semenya called African athletics leaders ‘cowards’ for failing to stand up and fight female athletes facing eligibility issues, then a few days ago she celebrated the birth of his second child with his wife Violet.
This Tuesday evening at the 69th edition of Cork City Sports, Semenya is back on the track running one of his non-specialist distances, the 3,000 meters, as part of his “transition” from his once conquering ability on shorter distances. . Story of his life.
Now 31, the two-time Olympic 800m champion – 2012 in London and again at Rio 2016 – is currently banned from racing internationally in events between 400m and 1 mile unless she takes medication to reduce her naturally high testosterone levels, having been classified as an athlete with differences in sex development (DSD). Semenya categorically refuses to take such drugs.
Organized for the MTU stadium in Bishopstown, the Cork meeting has for many years been one of the great titles of the Irish athletics calendar and this one is no exception: the presence of Semenya, his first race in Ireland, unmistakably adds an extra layer of interest.
Originally the South African was looking to use the race to prepare for the 5,000m at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham later this month, only that plan has now changed.
Last month, racing at the African Championships in Mauritius, her first international race for South Africa since the 2018 Commonwealth Games where she won the 800m-1500m double, Semenya clocked a time of 16:03.24 for 5,000m, in sixth – away from the 15:10.00 mark required for selection for the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon, which begins Friday the week.
She has since run 8:54.5 over 3,000m and was due to race in Liège, Belgium last Thursday before a back injury forced her to retire. Present in Cork since last Friday, she is aiming for a time around 8:40 am, her evening opponents including the Irishwoman Sarah Healy, already selected for Oregon in the 1,500m, the best Swede Sarah Lahti also in the high lot.
“From our discussions with Caster, the intention now is to use these few races as a sort of transition year into next season, and to focus on the 5,000m,” explained the director of the Cork meeting, Joe Hartnett. “The plan then is to return to South Africa and do some cross-county racing over the winter. But she has hopefully recovered from last week and is looking forward to racing in Cork.
Since World Athletics’ controversial decision in 2019, Semenya has openly criticized the limits placed on athletes with DSD. She lost an appeal and was then beaten in the Swiss Federal Court a year later, before heading to the European Court of Human Rights where her case has yet to be heard.
A bronze medalist on the World Continental Athletics Tour, Bandon’s Phil Healy is also set to run in the 100m and 400m, with Darragh McIlhenny aiming for the 17-year-old meeting record in the men’s 3,000m. with teen star Nick Griggs. Home victory hopes also rest with Israel Olatunde in the men’s 100m and Louise Shanahan in the women’s 800m.