Semenya finishes 13th, fails to advance in 5,000m at Worlds


EUGENE, Ore. — In a way, this race was like so many in the past for Caster Semenya. When she crossed the finish line, there was no one near her.

That race, however, was the 5,000 meters – not her specialty, the 800 – and when Semenya crossed the line on her own, she was in 13th place.

She failed to clear the opening round of the world championships on Wednesday, an expected result for the South African who is barred from her best event due to rules that require her to take hormone-reducing drugs to participate in races between 400 meters and one mile.

Semenya finished the 12½-lap race – run in scorching 91 degrees (32 degrees Celsius) – 15 minutes, 46.12 seconds, 54 seconds behind winner Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia. Given the circumstances, Semenya said it didn’t look like a loss and she was far from giving up.

“I think it’s great to be able to race here,” she said. “Just being able to complete the 5K, for me, is a blessing. I’m learning and I’m ready to learn even more. It was hot, I couldn’t keep up, I tried to stick as much as possible. But that’s part of the game.”

Semenya lost an appeal of a world athletics rule that made women with certain intersex conditions ineligible to race between 400 meters and one mile. Since 2019, she hasn’t run in a major 800-meter race, the event in which she won two Olympic titles and three world titles.

But there was nothing stopping her from competing in the 5,000m, and even though she had virtually no chance of winning, she still came to Oregon. His personal best in the race is 15:31.50, which is outside the world championship qualifying standard. But she entered the race after some higher-ranked runners failed to enter.

American Karissa Schweizer, who finished fifth in the Semenya heat, said “it’s quite inspiring that she puts in most of her effort and is still here competing at the world level.”

“She’s obviously in a different situation,” Schweizer said. “She can’t control this. She has to move on to another event and the 5 km is a difficult event. We just have to look at it from that angle – that she’s world-class in a 5K.

Semenya’s case is the most recognizable of a handful of examples involving intersex and transgender athletes in sport.

Semenya is not transgender, but her case has strong implications for how transgender athletes are treated and ranked. Semenya has never publicly identified as intersex or having the intersex condition called the 46,XY difference in sex development (DSD). But she essentially admitted to having the condition when she appealed World Athletics rules.

World Athletics chairman Sebastian Coe, who hinted the rules could be updated later this year, but likely not in a way that would restore Semenya’s eligibility for the 800, said the science regarding the effects of testosterone on athletes had guided all of World Athletics’ decisions. .

“The problem for me is very simple,” Coe said in an interview the day before Semenya’s race. “Of course, I recognize that both with DSD and with transgender, these are societal issues. I do not, however, have the luxury of being intimately involved in this debate. My responsibility is to protect the integrity women’s sports.

Semenya has been a vocal critic of the rules, most recently saying through his lawyer that they are “an affront to the spirit of sport”.

Two Namibian 200m runners, Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi, have a similar condition to Semenya, but because their races do not fall under the restrictions, they are eligible. Coe said the distance restrictions, like everything else in the regulations, “are not set in stone”.

Mboma missed the world championships through injury, while Masilingi failed to qualify for Tuesday night’s semi-finals. Another runner, Francine Niyonsaba, successfully moved from the 800m, where she won a silver medal at the Rio Games, to the 5,000m and 10,000m. She finished fifth in Tokyo in the 10k, but is out of the world due to injury.

“Our whole approach has been to find a navigable solution through this,” Coe said. “I didn’t come into sport to stop people from competing, I came into sport to find a reason to allow them to compete.”

She hung in the middle of the leading pack of the 18-woman race for about three laps, and then things started to go downhill. Halfway through the 5,000 meters she was down to 13th – running in a group of three runners about 80 meters behind the leading group. With around three laps to go, Semenya was in a familiar place – racing the track alone – but she was 13th.

There were no runners within 50 yards of her on either side as she crossed the finish line to a noticeable round of applause, identical to the one she received when she was introduced on the starting line.

As most of the runners collapsed on the track at the end, Semenya paced, breathing heavily, hands on her hips.

She clapped a few of the runners, grabbed a damp towel to put on the back of her neck, then dug into a cooler to drink something before heading up a flight of stairs that veered away from the track. and

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