Semenya looks to put ordeal behind her on eve of comeback
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Thursday 15 July 2010
Tonight in a far corner of Finland, some 20 miles from the Russian border, Caster Semenya will make her return to the track 11 months after winning the World Championships and being ordered by the IAAF to undergo gender tests.
The 19-year-old South African was finally cleared to run again competitively earlier this month and her Finnish manager, Jukka Harkonen, chose the Lappeenranta Games for her comeback. The women's 800 metres, unsurprisingly, will be the last race of the night in the modest Kimpinen Stadium. "It is like having a lottery win," was how the director of this normally low-key event, Jarmo Viskari, described Semenya's appearance.
Despite what has been a very public ordeal, Semenya said she was "not bitter" about the experience and she will not seek to take any action against the IAAF. "I'm not bitter toward anyone," she said. "I'm not even sure if I have been treated fairly or unfairly. If this had to be done like it was, then so be it."
International suspicions had originally been aroused last year when she lowered her personal best by four seconds at an event in Mauritius. She was instructed by the IAAF to take a gender test, after which the sport's governing body asked South Africa not to include her in their team for the World Championships. That request was ignored and she won thrillingly in Berlin in a time of 1:55.45, the best of last year.
Her ambitions tonight are much more modest. She has been overlooked by South Africa for the African championships later this month for fitness reasons and this evening is all about the first small step on the road to winning gold in October's Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Her coach, Michael Seme, said to expect a modest time of around 2min 4sec. "We are not expecting a good time," he said. "By the Commonwealths we will make sure everything is back and we will grab that gold medal."
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