It was not the best of days for Jenny Meadows. Despite suffering from a cold and swollen glands, the World Championship 800 metres bronze medallist put her newly earned reputation on the line in the British Grand Prix at Gateshead International Stadium yesterday afternoon.
It was not surprising that she was a little under the weather – too far off the pace to cover the break that took Christy Wurth-Thomas, an American 1500m specialist, clear of the field, and unable to respond when Jemma Simpson nipped past some 30m from the line to claim second place.
Then came the questions, the inevitable questions, about the athlete who cast a shadow not just over Meadows' brilliant breakthrough run in Berlin but also over the whole of the World Championships.
"I've not got a clue what's happening with her," Meadows said, when asked about Caster Semenya, the 18-year-old winner of the women's 800m final who was feted as a national hero when she returned to South Africa last week but who faces weeks of tests and specialist examinations to determine her gender definitively. "I don't know if she's running again, if she's doing any races."
Theoretically, Semenya could cross paths with the Wigan athlete at the World Athletics Finals at Thessaloniki in Greece on the weekend of 12-13 September but that would seem unlikely in the extreme. Without any qualifying points from the Grand Prix and Golden League circuit, the teenager would be dependent on an invitation from the International Association of Athletics Federations and the world governing body happen to be at loggerheads with Athletics South Africa about the manner in which news of the gender tests came into the public domain on the day of the 800m final in Berlin.
"I think it's the top seven on points and Caster hasn't got any points," Meadows said. "They have a wild card but Janeth Jepkosgei [the Kenyan who won the silver medal in Berlin] isn't in the top 10 either, so I don't know what they're going to do about that."
Quite what the athletics authorities are going to do about Semenya full stop is unlikely to become clear for some time yet. Having emerged from nowhere this summer to win the African Junior Championships in 1min 56.72sec, then proven to be a class apart in Berlin, prevailing in 1:55.45, the teenager has gone back home to an uncertain future – with the full sympathy of Meadows.
"I thought it was strange timing, to be honest," the Briton said of confirmation from the IAAF that Semenya had been undergoing sex tests just five hours before the 800m final.
"I know a lot of girls at the time were saying, 'Semanya's not going to be in the final,' but I put that out of my mind. I think it was just an unfortunate situation.
"It was probably dealt with wrongly, but then it's down to the South African federation as well. I'm not sure what the procedure is. I just think it's been an unfortunate incident for everyone."
It has certainly been unfortunate that Meadows' performance in the German capital has been overshadowed by the "Castergate" controversy. For seven years the 5ft 1in Wigan Harrier had been on the world-class fringes as an 800m runner. She was a semi-finalist at the Olympics in Beijing last summer, and making it on to the medal rostrum in Berlin was a major step forward for the 28-year-old.
Not that she was able to generate the forward momentum she needed in the home straight yesterday, finishing third in 2min 02.15sec, behind Wurth-Thomas (2:01.22) and Simpson (2:01.89).
"I was really pleased to get third there," Meadows reflected. "I've got swollen glands and a cold. I feel as flat as a fluke."
There was something of a flat feeling to the meeting as a whole, what with the wind and the rain, and a general "After the Lord Mayor's Show", post-World Championships demeanour. Even the climax of the men's 100m failed to produce any fireworks. Tyson Gay was a class apart, prevailing by a margin of 0.19sec from Kim Collins.
However, the American who took World Championship silver in the wake of Usain Bolt, could only clock 10.15sec into a strong headwind – a damp squib of a time by today's 100m standards.Reuse content