As Dutee Chand and Caster Semenya warmed up on the same patch of the field in Rio on Saturday evening, there was more than just shared hope. The two athletes - one a sprinter, one a middle-distance runner - lie at the heart of sport's gender debate.
The meeting was one Dutee had been hoping for and one that's left her moved. "After my 100m event on Saturday, when I went to the ground in the evening to warm up I saw Caster warming up too and walked up to her and introduced myself," Dutee told ESPN from Rio, adding that her limited English kept the conversation short. "She was very warm and asked me about my training and whether my event was over. I also enquired about her event, we clicked a selfie and wished each other the best. I really liked her attitude."
This photo is everything. Tears of joy! Dutee and Caster! pic.twitter.com/qPamidKnJa
- Katrina Karkazis (@Karkazis) 15 August 2016
"It was great meeting Caster. She was so friendly. It was almost like speaking to a school mate, a childhood friend." Dutee couldn't qualify for the women's 100m semifinals but Semenya is tipped to win gold in the women's 800m event on Wednesday. In fact, ahead of the Olympics, Dutee had listed a meeting with Semenya high up on her wish list before conceding that it would possibly stir a lot of curiosity, "I would love to meet her and hopefully have someone convey my thoughts to her since language could act as a barrier," she'd told ESPN. "More than questions, I think people will be curious to know who among the two of us is stronger."
Semenya was subjected to a gender test following her 2009 World Championship win, but then went on to win silver at the London Olympics. Dutee was pulled out of the 2014 Commonwealth Games contingent at the last minute, subjected to a gender test and banned from competing, before being cleared in 2015 by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The CAS ruled that the level of natural testosterone in an athlete's body is insufficient basis to bar a female athlete from competing, but the athletes know the relief could well be fleeting. The CAS has allowed the international athletics body a two-year window to prove the scientific veracity of the 'hyderandrogenism regulation', following which there could be a definitive decision over what the future holds for Dutee and Caster.