Friday, August 21, 2009

Caster Semenya

Caster Semenya (born 7 January 1991 in Pietersburg) is a South African middle-distance runner.

Semenya participated in the 2008 World Junior Championships, but did not advance past the 800 metres heats. Later that year, she won gold in the 800 m at the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games with a time of 2:04.23 in the final.[1]

Semenya won the 800 m and 1500 m at the 2009 African Junior Championships with times of 1:56.72 and 4:08.01 respectively.[2][3] The 800 m time was the fastest in 2009 when it was set.[4] It was also a national record, championship record, and she bettered a previous personal best (2:00.58) by almost four seconds. The previous South African record, 1:58.85, was held by Zelda Pretorius and she also beat Zola Budd’s national Junior record (2:00.9) [5].

Semenya won gold in the 800 m at the 2009 World Championships in Athletics with a time of 1:55.45 in the final, a personal best and the fastest time in the world that year.[6]

In August 2009, amid growing speculation, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) conducted a gender verification test in the weeks before the 800 m event at the World Championships.[7][4][8][9] The results of the test have not yet been published. Semenya states she is unconcerned about the test and rumours.[10][7]

Reaction in South Africa towards the IAAF's actions has been mainly negative, and a number of athletes, including Michael Johnson, have criticized the way that the governing body handled the situation.[11][10] The head of Athletics South Africa and Caster's family have dismissed the speculation.[12]


1. ^

2. ^ African Athletics, 2 August 2009: Nigerian Ogoegbunam completes a hat trick at Africa Junior Championships

3. ^

4. ^ a b Tom Fordyce (19 August 2009). "Semenya left stranded by storm". BBC Sport. Retrieved 19 August 2009.

5. ^ IAAF, 31 July 2009: South African teen Semenya stuns with 1:56.72 800m World lead in Bambous - African junior champs, Day 2

6. ^ "800 Metres Women Final Results". 19 August 2009. Retrieved 20 August 2009.

7. ^ a b "Caster Semenya faces sex test before she can claim victory". The Times. 19 August 2009. Retrieved 20 August 2009.

8. ^

9. ^ "Semenya told to take gender test". BBC Sport. 19 August 2009. Retrieved 19 August 2009.

10. ^ a b "Semenya dismissive of gender row". BBC Sport. 20 August 2009. Retrieved 20 August 2009.

11. ^ "South Africans unite behind gender row athlete". BBC News. 20 August 2009. Retrieved 20 August 2009.

12. ^ "SA fury over athlete gender test". BBC Sport. 20 August 2009. Retrieved 20 August 2009.

External links

§ IAAF profile for Caster Semenya

§ Interview with Semenya after the 2009 World Championship 800m Semi-final Part 1, Part 2


  1. I feel bad for her, she can't help her condition and she probably has been mocked all her life. At least she can be finally do something that she can be proud of.

  2. I feel bad for her because:

    1. Its perfectly possible that, wherever the fuzzy boundary between intersex and not intersex lies, Caster Semenya belongs on the 'not intersex' side.

    2. This whole fiasco could just as easily be a misreading of differences in racial characteristics and/or stereotypes of male and female as a sex variation issue. In which case there is a element of racism running through the 'controversy'.

    3. Her situation has been used across the internet to advance a variety of beliefs and identity-political causes, insensitively and without the slightest consideration for her.

    She's been called a 'gender bending athlete' on TG sites and a 'Queer' on GLBT sites. She may easily be none of these things.

    I have been disgusted by the handling of this story. Not surprisingly, OII is the only place where the issues have been handled with any sensitivity. Its about the only international resource that has any real comprehension of the diversity of human sex biology.


  3. Thanks for this blog post. For anyone wanting to read an analysis from an intersex perspective that does assume Caster Semenya is intersexed, and why her treatment is unfair, I offer my blog post: Thanks.