Athletics: 'It's like racing a man', says Semenya rival

Caster Semenya is back in the spotlight after rival 800m runners kick-started another gender debate when the South African beat a top-class field in Berlin overnight.

Semenya recently returned to the sport after missing 11 months of competition while undergoing gender tests following her gold medal performance at the World Championships last year.

The 19-year-old was back to her best, surging ahead in the last 50 metres to cross the line win her third race since she was cleared to run again in July.

She was greeted warmly by a crowd of nearly 50,000 at the Olympic Stadium but comments after the race by two rivals weren't as welcoming.

Britain's Jemma Simpson and Canadian Diane Cummins spoke openly after the race about the return of Semenya and whether the International Association of Athletics Federations should have allowed her to return to the track.

"It's obviously a human rights issue but human rights affect everyone in the race, not just one person," Simpson, who finished fourth, told the Telegraph.

"The rest of the field just gets ignored."

"No way is it a personal issue but it's a debate about what is right and fair for everyone.

"It's a really tough subject and a lot of people are very careful about what they say. You have to be. You have to be diplomatic and keep your opinions to yourself but sometimes it is so frustrating."

Cummins, who finished eighth in yesterday's race, said racing Semenya felt like running against a man.

"Unfortunately for Caster, she's grown up in an environment that is complicated not just for her but for human science. Basically, is she man, is she lady? What constitutes male, what constitutes female?

"Even if she is a female, she's on the very fringe of the normal athlete female biological composition from what I understand of hormone testing. So most of us just feel that we are literally running against a man," Cummins added.

"There are guys who can challenge Usain Bolt but nobody can challenge Caster Semenya," she said. "She is four or five seconds better than any of us and that's incredible."

Semenya was upbeat after the race despite all she has gone through since winning the World Championship title last year and having her gender questioned in a public forum.

"I still feel the same but it was not easy for a 19-year-old girl to go through what I've been through," Semenya said after cruising home in 1:59.90.

"I ran a good time, I felt at home."

Semenya will now run next week at the Diamond League final in Brussels, Belgium and two meets in Italy. She hopes to also run at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

Her focus will be in preparing to defend her title at next year's world championships in Daegu, South Korea, and the following year's Olympics in London.

- NZHERALD STAFF/AP

- NZ Herald

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