BERLIN - The South African teenager caught up in the gender-test flap bowed her head to receive the gold medal for winning the 800-meter win at the world championships on Thursday, while officials and family came to her defense.
Caster Semenya won by a huge margin Wednesday in the face of revelations that the world track body asked her to undergo gender testing.
Asked while walking into the medal ceremony how she was feeling, Semenya smiled and said, “Good, man.”
Dressed in a yellow and green track suit, Semenya waved to the crowd as she ascended the podium to receive her gold medal. She stood with her hands behind her back and mouthed the words to the South African national anthem.
Her dramatic improvement, muscular build and deep voice sparked speculation about her gender. Her father, grandmother and cousin dismissed speculation she is not a woman.
“She said to me she doesn’t see what the big deal is all about,” South Africa team manager Phiwe Mlangeni-Tsholetsane said. “She believes it is God given talent and she will exercise it.”
About three weeks ago, the IAAF asked the South African athletics federation to conduct the gender test after Semenya burst onto the scene by posting a world leading time of 1 minute, 56.72 seconds at the African junior championships in Bambous, Mauritius.
Her father, Jacob, told the Sowetan newspaper: “She is my little girl. ... I raised her and I have never doubted her gender. She is a woman and I can repeat that a million times.”
Semenya’s paternal grandmother, Maputhi Sekgala, said the controversy “doesn’t bother me that much because I know she’s a woman.”
“What can I do when they call her a man, when she’s really not a man? It is God who made her look that way,” Sekgala told the South African daily The Times.
South African athletics federation president Leonard Chuene defended the teenager Thursday, and insisted Semenya is facing intense scrutiny because she is African.
“It would not be like that if it were some young girl from Europe,” Chuene told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “If it was a white child, she would be sitting somewhere with a psychologist, but this is an African child.”
Chuene also said there was no evidence to prove Semenya was doing anything wrong.
“If there was evidence, she would have been stopped,” Chuene said. “Where I come from, you’re innocent until proven guilty.
“They’re judging her based on what?” Chuene added. “Who can give me conclusive evidence? I want someone to do that.”
Semenya did not attend the medal winners’ news conference after winning by a margin of more than 2 seconds, in 1:55.45. She was replaced at the dais by IAAF general secretary Pierre Weiss.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
If the tests show that Semenya is not a woman, she would be stripped of her gold medal, Weiss said.
The gender test, which takes weeks to complete, requires a physical medical evaluation, and includes reports from a gynecologist, endocrinologist, psychologist, an internal medicine specialist and an expert on gender.
“We have to be very scrupulously fair and sensitive about” the issue, IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said Thursday. “It’s all very well people saying she’s a man, she looks like a man — that’s not good enough. You have to be very careful and cautious about that.”
Is teen track star really a woman?
Aug. 21: Tests are being conducted to determine the gender of South African runner Caster Semenya. Dr. Nancy talks with a panel about the nature of gender and identity in society.