Semenya Caster’s Back In Competition

Semenya Caster, 19, has been declared ‘fit to be female’ by the IAAF. Family and friends have always maintained her sex to be that of a female. However, at the insistence of the IAAF, and the international sports community, she was forced to undergo a series of invasive tests that attempted to determine her biological gender. Semenya was forced into an 11-month hiatus from athletics in order to “prove” a female identity before being allowed to compete again. 

Her muscular physique and vastly improved start times gave other female runners reason for concern. Namely, she came out of nowhere and handily kicked their asses up and down the track. Her persistence and desire has helped her to overcome international criticism and adversity as it relates to her athleticism and body image.

The IAAF cleared Semenya for immediate competition on July 6, 2010. Her first race resulted in a definitive win. Jenny Meadows, a fellow 800 sprinter and winner of the bronze medal, had this to say about Semenya:

“Before the final we were put in a holding pen kind of thing,” she recalls. “Nobody says much but it’s an opportunity to look at each other and smile. From the very start, though, Caster had her head down, not wanting to make eye contact. I tried to smile at her, but she just didn’t look up, and I understood why, because some of the Eastern European girls were staring at her and laughing, just being really rude. It wasn’t nice. And really, she did brilliantly after that to come out and perform how she did.” Behind her, Meadows secured bronze with a timely personal best of 1 minute 58.93 seconds, exceeding the expectations of an athlete who is happy to admit to being a late bloomer. ” source

Her physical presence is intimidating, and it’s probably the biggest issue she’ll face in her career from here on out. This episode has opened the door to discourse concerning ‘gender’ to a broad international audience, but I can’t help but feel sorry that such a young athlete had to face this battle alone and in public. This young athlete, who is not only a high achiever, but more physically fit than the average male may still be thought of as a “woman” in a “mans” body.

She’s an incredible athlete and I will closely follow her career. She is exactly who she says she is and it is my hope that she perseveres through the storm and keeps coming out on top. I have a feeling she will accomplish and overcome even greater obstacles on her way to being a South African track and field star.

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