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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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Beach volleyball player’s dog becomes social media sensation

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Norwegian beach volleyball player Mathias Berntsen‘s dog, Kiara, captivated social media this weekend.

A video of Kiara peppering with Berntsen and a pair across the net on a grass field spread from Berntsen’s Instagram across platforms. Kiara now has 12,000 Instagram followers, more than twice the total of Berntsen.

Berntsen, 24, is one half of Norway’s second-best beach volleyball team.

He and partner Hendrik Mol are ranked 45th in the world and well outside the Tokyo Olympic picture (24 teams go to the Games), but could get in the mix depending on how qualification is amended once sports resume.

Berntsen and his cousin Mol are part of a group called the Beach Volley Vikings. Mol’s younger brother, Anders, and family friend Christian Sorum are the world’s top-ranked team (profiled here).

MORE: Beach volleyball players fly to Australia, learn event is canceled

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FIFA rules on Olympic men’s soccer tournament age eligibility

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For the first time since 1988, some 24-year-olds will be eligible for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament without using an over-age exception.

FIFA announced Friday that it will use the same age eligibility criteria for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 that it intended to use in 2020 — that players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997 are eligible, plus three over-age exceptions. FIFA chose not to move the birthdate deadline back a year after the Olympics were postponed by one year.

Olympic men’s soccer tournaments have been U-23 events — save those exceptions — since the 1992 Barcelona Games. In 1984 and 1988, restrictions kept European and South American players with World Cup experience ineligible. Before that, professionals weren’t allowed at all.

Fourteen of the 16 men’s soccer teams already qualified for the Games using players from under-23 national teams. The last two spots are to be filled by CONCACAF nations, potentially the U.S. qualifying a men’s team for the first time since 2008.

The U.S.’ biggest star, Christian Pulisic, and French superstar Kylian Mbappe were both born in 1998 and thus would have been under the age limit even if FIFA moved the deadline to Jan. 1, 1998.

Perhaps the most high-profile player affected by FIFA’s decision is Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus. The Manchester City star was born April 3, 1997, and thus would have become an over-age exception if FIFA pushed the birthdate rule back a year.

Instead, Brazil could name him to the Olympic team and still keep all of its over-age exceptions.

However, players need permission from their professional club teams to play in the Olympics, often limiting the availability of stars.

MORE: Noah Lyles details training near woods, dog walkers

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