It’s been eight months since Caster Semenya last raced, but on Friday she returned to the track at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa to set a national record of 36.78 seconds in the 300m. Semenya is multiple world and Olympic champion in the 800m, but last June, World Athletics introduced a rule that prevented her from competing in her preferred event.
The World Athletics ruling states that female athletes like Semenya who have DSD (differences of sexual development) are prohibited from competing in any events from the 400m up to the mile. To compete at these distances, athletes with DSD must medically lower their testosterone levels to a maximum of five nanomoles per litre.
Semenya has said she will not consider taking these steps, so she had to decide to either go to the shorter sprint races or make a big jump to events longer than the mile. She did compete in two 5,000m races last year, but she has made it known that she does not intend to make a serious attempt at the distance.
Although the 300m isn’t a championship or Olympic event and the race in Johannesburg was a low-level competition, Semenya’s performance is still impressive, and it’s a statement that she plans on continuing her professional track career.
“Track and field, you will still see my face,” Semenya said after her win, as reported by The Telegraph. “I’m here to stay.” With her performance on Friday, Semenya now owns the South African national records in every event from the 300m up to the 1,500m.
Semenya has fought the World Athletics testosterone ruling and taken it to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), but it is unlikely anything will change in time for her to compete in the 800m at the Olympics this summer. If she continues to work at the sprint races, she could still have a shot at competing in Tokyo.