Caster Semenya unfazed by gender questions

Updated: August 30, 2010, 3:26 PM ET
Associated Press

ROVERETO, Italy -- Caster Semenya remains unfazed by questions about her gender from competitors -- as long as the fans' reactions remain positive.

Having been cleared to run following an 11-month dispute over her gender, the 800-meter world champion has been cheered at her four races since returning. But Canadian opponent Diane Cummins openly questioned Semenya's gender at a meet in Berlin earlier this month, just like Elisa Cusma Piccione of Italy did at last year's world championships.

"My coach used to tell me that opponents didn't exist. So it doesn't matter who supports you or doesn't support you," Semenya said Monday while preparing for a meet in northern Italy. "The important thing is the audience, the people who cheer for you. The friendships start outside the races, because during the races everyone is doing their own thing."

Semenya could face many more competitors soon if she fulfills her wish of adding the 1,500 meters in time for the 2012 London Olympics.

"It's not a problem going for two events," the South African said, recalling that she put up decent 1,500 times in junior meets. "It depends how strong you are, because you go through (qualifying) rounds."

Those qualifying rounds require a great deal of strategy, and too much planning was just what backfired for Semenya when she finished third in the Diamond League meet in Brussels on Friday. Semenya hung back for most of the race and by the time she started charging it was too late.

"Now all the other coaches are aware that people are using this system of coming from behind," Semenya's coach, Michael Seme, said. "Now we're going to change. We'll (stay) with them -- not at the back, not leading -- just in the (pack), then we'll try to push more in the last 200 meters."

Despite the loss in Brussels, Semenya still clocked 1 minute, 59.66 seconds -- her fastest time since she's returned to the track.

She's aiming for 1:58 in Tuesday's Palio della Quercia meet here and 1:57 at the Commonwealth Games in October.

Semenya ran a personal best 1:55.45 when she won the gold medal at last year's world championships in Berlin, prompting many observes to declare it was only a matter of time before she broke Jarmila Kratochvilova's world record of 1:53.28 set in 1983.

The 11-month layoff has put off talk of world records.

"We don't even think about that," Seme said. "That's for 2012 and the Olympic Games. It's better to break the world record then -- when everybody is watching."

While she's just 19 now, Semenya has already thought about what she might do after running -- such as becoming a boxer.

"I can do boxing when I'm 30 years old," she said. "Because in athletics you can't run forever."


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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