CAPE TOWN - What absolute class! After a tumultuous two weeks following the controversial IAAF regulations on female classification, Caster Semenya answered her critics in the best way possible on Friday evening – by breaking a record.
Semenya set a new South African mark in the 1 500m by clocking 3:59.92, edging past her own previous time of 4:00.71 to clinch victory in the IAAF Diamond League opener in Doha, Qatar.
And she was joined in the celebrations a few minutes later by sprinter Carina Horn, who became the first South African woman to break 11 seconds in the 100m by posting 10.98.
The 27-year-old Semenya has maintained a dignified silence in the world spotlight since the IAAF announced on April 26 that female athletes from the 400m to the mile who have high testosterone levels would have to take medication to lower it – a ploy president Sebastian Coe said was designed to “level the playing field”.
It led to an outcry in South Africa and in some other quarters of the globe, most notably Canada, that the change in rules was targeted at Semenya following her dominance in the 800m and 1 500m.
But the new laws will only take effect in November – if it gets that far as Athletics South Africa have said they would challenge it in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) if it is not overturned.
Commonwealth Games champion Semenya responded directed to the rule change just once on social media, saying that she accepts who she is and is happy.
On Friday night, though, she made her point on the track. She held her fire in the first three laps as an assortment of pacemakers got it wrong as they ran too quickly for the rest of the field.
But on the final lap, Semenya took matters into her own hands to break away from the pack, and she put her foot down in the last 200 metres to break through the magical four-minute barrier for the first time in her career.
Horn has come close on a number of occasions to run a sub-11 time, but her fastest was 11.03 – until now.
Despite ending fifth, with the Ivory Coast’s Marie Josee Ta Lou running a blistering 10.85, Horn – who missed the Commonwealth Games due to injury – stopped the clock on 10.98 to finally join the sub-11 club.