Caster Semenya, the unfortunate cause célèbre of the 12th track and field World Championships, was back in the Olympiastadion arena as the centre of attention again last night. Twenty-four hours on from her commanding victory in the women's 800 metres final, and the news that she was undergoing tests to verify her gender, the 18-year-old South African was collecting the reward for her efforts at the medal ceremony.
On Wednesday night she had cut a beguilingly forlorn figure in her hour of glory, being stewarded out of the arena before completing a lap of honour and steered clear of the media pack waiting to talk to her in the bowels of the arena. In the doping control area she sat slumped in a chair with her head in her hands. Last night Semenya held her head high as she stepped on to the rostrum to receive her gold medal. She received a generous round of applause from the 75,000 capacity crowd – and from Jenny Meadows, the Wigan Harrier who won the bronze medal. Asked what she thought of the controversy, Semenya replied: "I don't give a damn about it."
"I just feel sorry for Caster," Meadows said. "I really feel for her. It's not a nice position to be in. I think she was half-embarrassed by the whole situation. It's a situation that could have been avoided. I don't think she should have been put in the situation she was in last night. It's for the IAAF [the International Association of Athletics Federations] and the South African federation [Athletics South Africa] to sort it out. The press conference was a circus. Absolutely bizarre. I've never known anything like it."
Meadows' medal was the third for the British team in Berlin, but sadly there will be none from the women's marathon on Sunday, Paula Radcliffe having announced yesterday that she would not be putting herself on the line in the 26.2-mile event. "You can't go into a marathon less than 100 per cent right and get away with it," she said.
Last summer the marathon world record holder took a long shot at Olympic gold in Beijing with just two weeks of proper training behind her after suffering a stress fracture of the femur. She limped home 23rd. Twelve months on, she has decided to take no risks – having only returned to competitive action last Sunday, with a victory in New York City, following an operation to remove a bunion in March.
Still, there was glimpse of medal-winning potential from Greg Rutherford in the qualifying round of the long jump last night, the Milton Keynes athlete emerging from a season of injury setbacks with a British record mark of 8.30m. There was also a close-run thing in the 110m hurdles final, Will Sharman finishing fourth in 13.30sec. Formerly a decathlete and a classically trained pianist, the Belgrave Harrier was the official timekeeper on the last series of the Gladiators television show. Clearly, he is now a major championship medal contender.Reuse content