If ever there was a case of no news is good news, then the wonderful silence from the rumour mill about Caster Semenya is the best thing the athlete could have wished for.
The quiet manner in which the 800m runner has come into these Games and prepared for her first race today suggests the world is finally more interested in how she runs rather than the intimate personal details that have dogged her since winning the world title in 2009. The dark days of sex testing and arguments over her have been replaced with debate about whether she can recapture the form which took her to victory at the World Championships in Berlin in 2009 – the victory which prompted the IAAF to begin the degrading investigation.
Semenya’s first heat on Wednesday (12.35pm SA time on SS4) was expected to produce a win, but for the semi-finals on Thursday and the final on Saturday, things are sure to be tougher.
For Semenya the only thing she believes she has to worry about is what happens on the track, and she is confident she can overcome probably the most powerful line-up ever for an 800m Olympic event.
“I am not scared,” she said earlier. “I concentrate on my race rather than on anybody else – if I am strong mentally, then ‘come on everybody’.
“If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best and I think that to be number one you have to believe in yourself.”
The biggest rivals facing Semenya are likely to be the fastest woman over 800m in the world, Kenyan Pamela Jelimo, and veteran Russian, Mariya Savinova.
If these two and Semenya do come into the finish straight fighting for gold on Saturday, then one will make history: a Jelimo win will make her the first woman to win this event twice; a Semenya victory will make her the first South African woman to win Olympic gold on the track.
And if Savinova is first she will be only the second woman to win an Olympic 800m medal as the reigning world champion.