Caster Semenya won the 2‚000m race in Paris on Tuesday night‚ just missing Zola Budd’s 28-year-old national record in the rarely run event.
Semenya crossed the line in 5min 38.19sec‚ which was 0.12sec short of Budd’s old mark and 0.47 ahead of nearest rival Hawi Feysa‚ the young Ethiopian distance runner who ended second at the Under-20 world cross championships in 2017.
Another Ethiopian, Adanech Anbesa — who took the 1‚500m bronze medal behind Semenya at the 2016 African championships — was third in 5:39.90.
Semenya was running for the first time since losing her case to overturn the new gender eligibility rules of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland at the beginning of May.
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The regulations mean athletes with hyperandrogenism must take medication to lower naturally occurring high levels of testosterone to compete from the 400m to the mile‚ among other events.
Semenya‚ who is refusing to take testosterone suppressants‚ has appealed the Court of Arbitration for Sport decision at the Swiss Federal Tribunal‚ which has ordered the IAAF to suspend the regulations temporarily until it gets to consider the submission by world governing body for athletics.
But so far Semenya has not been entered into any races from 400m to the mile‚ with her next scheduled outing being the 3‚000m at the Prefontaine Classic in the US at the end of June.
“I can run any distance I want‚” the South African told reporters after wining her race in front of 1‚650 spectators on the outskirts of Paris.
“I don’t have time for nonsense‚ I don’t have time for messages for anyone. I said a long time ago that I’m going to focus on myself. There will always be people who will provoke you‚ but I’m always going to stay positive. I’m not going to talk about the appeal‚ I have a lawyer‚ I have a team. I am an athlete; the only thing I focus on is my performance.”
Asked if she would be defending her 800m title at the World Championships‚ which start in September‚ Semenya replied: “Of course I’m an athlete‚ a world-class athlete. My goals are very clear‚ I think I’ve made a statement in Doha [in May]‚ running in 1:54(.98)‚ it’s pretty clear to me.”
Also in the race in Paris was Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi‚ who has finished second behind Semenya in many 800m contests since 2016. Niyonsaba‚ also affected by the IAAF’s new regulations‚ was fifth in 5:43.43. “I’m against [those rules]. It’s discriminatory‚” she said.