South Africa's Semenya takes 800 meters gold

Sat Aug 20, 2016 11:30pm EDT
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By Jack Stubbs

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Caster Semenya won the 800 meters final in a personal best time of 1:55.28 on Saturday, claiming her first Olympic gold medal and using her podium platform to call for unity in sport.

Burundi's Francine Niyonsaba finished in 1:56.49 to claim the silver, her country's second medal in any sport at the Olympics. Kenya's Margaret Wambui won bronze in 1:56.89.

Semenya has dominated the event this season, with three of the fastest four times, but has had to contend with renewed controversies about her gender.

After winning the 2009 world title as a 19-year-old, tests reportedly revealed that she is hyperandrogenous, resulting in her body producing an abnormally high amount of testosterone, which makes her more powerful than her rivals.

An International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) rule limiting the amount of naturally occurring functional testosterone for female athletes appeared to have restricted Semenya's prospects but the rule was quashed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport last year.

In Rio, France's Justine Fedronic, who failed to qualify for the 800 final, said she had sympathy for Semenya's situation but did not consider competing against her a fair fight.

"I just want to be a better athlete. The main focus here was just to run a championship," Semenya told reporters. "The coaches told me: just focus on running, nothing else."

"Sport is meant to unite people," she added. "I think that's what we need to keep doing."   Continued...

2016 Rio Olympics - Athletics - Final - Women's 800m Final - Olympic Stadium - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 20/08/2016. Caster Semenya (RSA) of South Africa celebrates winning the gold medal.   REUTERS/Dominic Ebenbichler