Semenya forgets past and dreams of another gold

With gender-test furore behind her, the South African wants to defend 800m title

Whatever question is asked of Caster Semenya, the world 800 metres champion who races here in today's Samsung Diamond League meeting, there is always another one lurking unspoken.

The furore which broke around this young South African before and after she won that title as an 18-year-old in Berlin reverberated throughout – and indeed beyond – the sporting world as it emerged that there had been questions about whether Semenya had a physical condition which might give her an unfair advantage over other women competitors.

She was withdrawn from international competition until 6 July 2010, when the International Association of Athletics Federations, which had initially received widespread criticism when it confirmed the news leaked three hours before Semenya's final in Berlin that she was to be asked to undergo a sex test, cleared her to return to competition.

No details of her gender testing have been released for reasons of her privacy, but she is now clearly operating within the new IAAF rule issued with regard to women's competition in April relating to "hyperandrogenism", a condition involving overproduction of male sex hormones.

Although Semenya ran in Finland and Berlin, returning to the track on which she had set her startling winning time of 1min 55.45sec a year earlier, injuries prevented her competing in the Delhi Commonwealth Games, so this is her first full season back. Her ambition is straightforward, if not simple – to retain her title at the IAAF World Championships starting in Daegu, South Korea next month.

And as she made clear in a relatively relaxed press appearance in the meeting hotel, she doesn't think it will take a time of 1min 55sec to win the title again.

Part of the reason for the relaxation, it has to be said, stemmed from the opening comment of the master of ceremonies alongside the figure in long shorts and dayglo pink T-shirt: "Caster will not respond to any question relating to what happened in 2009."

On the face of it, an odd statement given that this is an athlete who has recently characterised that victory as the best moment in her life. Again, the unspoken obtrudes.

But as she prepared for what will be her first race in Paris, Semenya was happy enough to address the next World Championships – which start in Daegu next month – if not the last.

"Retaining my gold – it's one of my big dreams," she said, her long-fingered hands, with a single gold ring on her left little finger, moving in sympathy with the words. "I need to hang on there, and train hard, so I can win my gold again. That's the main thing of this year."

Her races so far this season, however, have only been a mixture of respectable and inept, with victory at the Eugene Diamond League and third place in the Oslo Diamond League, in 1min 58.88 and 1:58.61 respectively, being followed by a heavy defeat over 1500m in Lausanne, where she was 13th and last, and a mediocre showing in Tuesday's 800m in Rheims, where she was fifth in 2:01.02 – hardly gold medal-winning form.

A vulnerable figure off the track, given what has happened to her, Semenya is now looking vulnerable on it. But she seems to feel she is heading in the right direction.

Asked if she felt she could get back to running in the area of 1min 55sec by the end of the season, she was initially non-committal before revealing what may be a more realistic gameplan.

"Hopefully yes," she said. "At the end of the season it might happen that you get back to the normal standard. We will see. I am planning to go faster than 1.58. If I do it tomorrow I will be happy... Now I just need to focus. There are so much steps that I need to pass first, you know, to get back to that normal standard.

"But even if I'm not back to the top shape I can still retain the title. The 800 – anybody can win it, whether you are super fit or not.

As of now, I'm not thinking of anybody. Like I said, when I do my race, it's only me, so I am focusing on me, running 800, winning gold."

But her rivals, many of them still sceptical about her situation, are finding ways to beat her. Did she really feel she could maintain her hold?

"Many ladies are going fast," she responded. "But mentally" – and here she pointed a finger to her braided hair – "if you are not fit here, that's a problem. So we will see who is going to win the title." Her grin was a broad and confident one.

* Tyson Gay has undergone an arthroscopic procedure on his injured right hip and will not run again this year, his manager said last night. Gay, the world's second fastest man behind Usain Bolt and who was already set to miss next month's World Championships, had the surgery on Tuesday in Colorado.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Popes current and former won't be watching the football together
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face
books
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting