Caster cruises to gold

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Berlin - South African teenager Caster Semenya shook off a gender test controversy on Wednesday night to win the 800m final at the World Athletics Championship in Berlin.

Powerfully built 18-year-old Caster took the lead halfway through the race and won in a world leading 1 minute, 55.45 seconds, beating defending champion Janeth Jepkosgei of Kenya by a massive 2.45 seconds and a personal best by more than a second.

Jennifer Meadows of Britain took bronze. Caster's time is the fastest in the world this year.

South African sports officials had rallied around the embattled runner on Wednesday after it was confirmed the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) had asked for tests to determine Caster's gender.

Caster's masculine built and her rapid improvements in performance have led to doubts about her gender, with various athletics websites and international media suggesting she is not a woman.

The South African Department of Sports and Recreation said yesterday they were disappointed by the rumours. "We have no reason to doubt that Athletics South Africa (ASA) would send a male athlete to compete as a female or vice versa, in any Championship.

"She has already proven what a classy athlete she is and it is now time for her to show the world that she has a much bigger heart than we give her credit for," the department said.