Joanna Jozwik of Poland and Caster Semenya of South Africa congratulate one another after Semenya won the race. Photo: John Sibley/Reuters

I’ve come face to face with bravery, I’ve seen it in action, I’ve seen it almost every year since April 2012.

Her bravery first came to the fore when a storm erupted eight years ago when the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) asked Caster Semenya to undergo a gender ‘test’ just days before the women’s 800m final at the world championships in Berlin 2009.

It is funny that, almost a decade has past since Semenya was dissected and placed under the prying eyes of the international media, she still has to answer questions that are none of anybody’s damn business.

Dignified in her answers whenever the topic surfaces, Semenya was hardly afforded the dignity when her medical records were leaked to the media.

While the world debated every detail of what was supposed to have been confidential, the people who were supposed to protect her remain anonymous.

But as much as Semenya tries to mind her own business the issue always seem to rear its ugly head.

Enter the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s (CAS) ruling that testing on female athletes taking testosterone suppressants be suspended after Indian sprinter Dutee Chand’s successful appealed her ban from competition in July 2015.

The CAS ruled the IAAF needed to provide scientific evidence that enhanced testosterone levels translated into improved performances in hyperandrogenic athletes.

After winning her maiden gold medal at the Rio Olympics, Semenya again had to put on a brave face as she fielding questions.

Asked whether Semenya and her fellow medallists Margaret Wambui and Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba were taking any medication to lower testosterone levels, the South African gave a stern answer.

“Excuse me my friend, tonight is all about performance, we are not here to talk about the IAAF, and some speculations,” Semenya said.

“Tonight is all about performances, and this press conference is about the 800m that we ran today, so thank you.”

Shortly before these world championships in the English capital, the IAAF published its research in support of its suspended hyperandrogegism regulations.

Semenya was again asked about the possibility of CAS ruling in favour of the IAAF and what it would mean for her going forward.

Again showing her bravery and restraint, Semenya firmly made the point that the IAAF’s bid to reinstate its regulations had nothing to do with her.

“I have no time for nonsense, so medication, no medication,” Semenya said.

“Look, I’m an athlete, I don’t have time for such things. You understand?”

“It is their own decisions, my focus is now for me getting healthy and to compete. I really don’t have time for nonsense.”

Semenya has certainly come full circle and in the week the world was celebrating International Women’s Day, she reaffirmed her role as one of the country’s most inspiring female figures.

The South African icon has time and time again demonstrated her fearless nature when the world seems to be against her.

The educated and passionate athletic crowd at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Stadium have shown Semenya the respect she so richly deserves.

While much of the attention ahead of the championships has been focused on her male compatriot Wayde van Niekerk’s double attempt, Semenya quietly went about her business racing both the 800m and 1500m.

With the 1500m bronze already in the bag, Semenya is on the cusp of winning her second world 800m gold medal, which would further cement her place as one of the world’s greats.

And while she juggles the pressures of racing at the championships, Semenya has to find time for her assignments as part of her studies.

She will line up in Sunday's final, and while she may be the topic of conversation for other reasons, Semenya will continue to brush it off.


Saturday Star

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