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Caster Semenya laments lack of support, hints at trying other sports

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South African runner Caster Semenya emphatically said Wednesday she does not plan to retire despite a ruling that she cannot compete in the near future.

In an interview from a women’s conference live-streamed by South African news organization Eyewitness News, Semenya gave two different career timelines, saying she may run until she’s about 35 but also saying she have 10 more years left, which would make her 38 upon retirement.

“I might be stopped from running now, but it’s just a temporary thing,” Semenya said. 

Semenya also spoke about empowering women, something she says other women have not done for her in her career.

If you want to empower women, it starts first amongst us,” Semenya said. “I always have this question about what is it we are doing to empower other women. Do we support them just by saying it, or do we support them physically or emotionally? 

Since I’ve been in sports, I’ve never really felt really supported. I’ve never felt recognized, mostly by women.” 

Semenya has dominated the 800-meter run for a decade, winning Olympic gold medals in 2012 and 2016 — the first when Russian runner Mariya Savinova failed a doping test — along with three world championships. But she has also been the focal point of an ethical and medical debate about allowing athletes with XY chromosomes to compete with women who have the more common XX pairing.

A few such questions have arisen over the years — most notably with Russian track and field athletes Tamara and Irina Press, who stopped competing when gender testing became mandatory — but Semenya’s case has prompted a large-scale discussion of how to allow athletes to compete while ensuring XX athletes have a chance to succeed.

The IAAF, track and field’s organizing body, decreed in 2018 that Semenya must take testosterone suppressants in order to compete. The Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld the rule in May, but Semenya took the rarely successful route of appealing the decision to Swiss courts. One court ordered the IAAF to suspend its rule, but a Swiss Federal Supreme Court judge overruled that decision, leaving Semenya unable to compete without undergoing testosterone treatment.

In Wednesday’s interview, Semenya playfully mused about other careers she might have taken, specifically a soldier or a spy, and suggested she might go back to playing soccer as she did in her youth. She also expressed an interest in rugby and cricket, two sports in which South Africa is a global power on the men’s side but less successful in women’s competition.

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Salwa Eid Naser, world 400m champion, provisionally banned

Salwa Eid Naser
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Salwa Eid Naser, the world 400m champion of Bahrain, was provisionally suspended for missing three drug tests in a 12-month span.

“I’ve never been a cheat. I will never be,” Naser, 22, said in an Instagram live video. “I only missed three drug tests, which is normal. It happens. It can happen to anybody. I don’t want people to get confused in all this because I would never cheat.”

Naser said “the missed tests” came before last autumn’s world championships, where she ran the third-fastest time in history (48.14 seconds) and the fastest in 34 years.

“This year I have not been drug tested,” she said. “We are still talking about the ones of last season before the world championships.”

The Athletics Integrity Unit, which handles doping cases for track and field, did not announce whether Naser’s gold medal could be stripped.

“Hopefully, it’ll get resolved because I don’t really like the image, but it has happened,” she said. “It’s going to be fine. It’s very hard to have this little stain on my name.”

Naser, the 2017 World silver medalist, upset Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas for the world title in Doha on Oct. 3.

The only women who have run faster than Naser, who was born Ebelechukwu Agbapuonwu in Nigeria to a Nigerian mother who sprinted and a Bahraini father, were dubious — East German Marita Koch (47.60) and Czechoslovakia’s Jarmila Kratochvilova (47.99).

“I would never take performance-enhancing drugs,” Naser said. “I believe in talent, and I know I have the talent.”

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When Laurie Hernandez winked at the Olympics

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Blink, and you may have missed one of the social-media-sensation moments of the Rio Olympics.

Laurie Hernandez, then 16, was the youngest woman on the U.S. Olympic team across all sports. She was about to start arguably the most important floor exercise routine of her life.

So, she winked.

“The amazing thing about the Olympics is that you feel so many different emotions in the span of a few days, and they are all intense,” she wrote in her 2017 book, “I Got This,” a nod to what she told herself before her balance beam routine earlier that night. “So it was nice to have at least one totally playful moment.”

The U.S., on its fourth and final rotation, already had the team gold all but locked up. Knowing she was nervous, Hernandez’s teammates confirmed to her that they were a few points ahead.

Then Hernandez heard the beep, and it was time to go. She was in the view of an out-of-bounds judge at the Rio Olympic Arena.

“Well, I looked straight at her and suddenly felt this surge of confidence to wink,” she wrote. “Later, a woman came up to me while I was watching Simone [Biles] and Aly [Raisman] compete in their all-around finals and she said, ‘Wow, I just want you to know that when you winked at the judge, it really worked.’ I didn’t know how to respond, so I just said, ‘Thank you. That’s very nice of you to say.’ That’s when she told me she was the out-of-bounds judge! All I could say was ‘Oh my goodness.'”

Hernandez, a New Jersey native, finished the Olympics with a team gold and balance beam silver.

She took more than two years off before making a comeback in earnest last year, announcing she planned to return to competition this spring under new coaches in California. Now that’s on hold given the coronavirus pandemic, which pushed the Tokyo Olympics to 2021.

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