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Caster Semenya: ‘I’ve never really felt very supported’ by women

“Whoever’s going to stop me from running,” Semenya told a women’s conference in Johannesburg, “he’s going to have to drag me out of the track.”

Caster Semenya at Standard Bank Top Women Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa on Wednesday, August 14, 2019.
Eyewitness News South Africa via YouTube

South African Olympian Caster Semenya says her family has been her main source of support and strength, as she fights for the right to compete without medical intervention. But according to Reuters, the group whose support she lacks most, is other women.

The world champion 800m sprinter, who was the keynote speaker at the Standard Bank Top Women Conference in Johannesburg on Wednesday, said some female competitors have even been rude to her.

“Since I have been in sport I have never really felt very supported, I’ve never felt recognized mostly by women,” she said. “I think it comes more into the international stage when you see your own rivals come with this... what can I call it... these rude responses in terms of me competing against them,” said Semenya. Even so, she said she always maintains good sportsmanship.

As she spoke from the stage, Semenya noted Wednesday was the 10-year anniversary of when she won her first Olympic gold medal. Now 28, she said she has yet to decide whether she will switch to longer distances or pursue a career in another sport, as she appeals the decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“In terms of changing events I haven’t decide anything about moving up or moving down. I still consider myself a middle distance runner,” Semenya said.

Switzerland’s Supreme Court has allowed a new rule to be implemented by the International Association of Athletics Federations. It bans athletes with differences in sexual development from racing in distances from 400m to a mile unless they take drugs to reduce their testosterone levels.

“They want to control this human being,” said Semenya. “They have tried and failed so now they are trying to get rid of me.”

In telling her story, Semenya said she has always been a girl, and says her parents knew she’d be fast when she started walking at just seven months of age. She recounted what she told track officials who tried to tell her she wouldn’t be able to run because of what she calls her “natural gifts.”

“Whoever is going to stop me from running,” Semenya said, “is going to have to drag me out of the track,” Semenya said. “At the end of the day I am a woman, an athlete and I work hard everyday.”

Watch the full interview with Caster Semenya via Eyewitness News South Africa’s YouTube channel.