Caster Semenya will return to major competition at the Commonwealth Games in India after she was included in South Africa's team yesterday. The country's Olympic committee, SASCOC, named the 800-metre world champion as one of 32 athletes, swimmers, cyclists, power lifters and rugby sevens players added to South Africa's initial 115-strong team for the October games in Delhi.
"I'm very happy to see the return of Caster Semenya to duty for South Africa," Gideon Sam, the SASCOC president said. "We have observed her progress closely since the [International Association of Athletics Federations] cleared her to run and it's good to hear her say that she's focusing all her efforts on the Commonwealths." Semenya has won all three of her comeback races since she was cleared to run following an 11-month break.
She beat a strong field in Berlin on Sunday to continue her winning return to the sport, although public comments by at least two athletes questioning Semenya's eligibility have reignited the debate over the teenager's gender. "We are not bothered by those comments," Ray Mali, the acting head of Athletics South Africa, told reporters yesterday. "We are all excited that she is back in the team. I watched the meet in Berlin on Sunday and was quite happy to see the way she was received by the crowd.
"Caster is back and the world has accepted Caster is back." Mali added that Semenya's preparations for the Commonwealth Games were going very well. She ran 1min, 59.90secs in Berlin, the first time she had run under two minutes since her return. "The fact that she's unbeaten in her three races thus far and has improved her time on each occasion is good news for our medal effort in New Delhi," Sam said.
Semenya will run tomorrow at the Diamond League final in Brussels and at two meetings in Italy as she continues her preparations for the Commonwealth Games. Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, the men's 800-metre world champion, Khotso Mokoena, the Olympic long jump silver medallist and Commonwealth champions Elizna Naude (discus), Sunette Viljoen (javelin) and LJ van Zyl (400m hurdles) were also named to the South African team.
Meanwhile, David Rudisha believes he could lower his 800 metre world record this weekend. The 21-year-old Kenyan broke Wilson Kipketer's 13-year record in Berlin last weekend, and will compete tomorrow in Brussels. Rudisha will then head to the IAAF world challenge meet in Reiti, Italy, on Sunday when he says he could again go for the record. "I think if I feel I am strong again and am in good form that's when I can decide if want to run fast to try to lower my record," Rudisha said.
"It is a matter of time and recovery sometimes. Sometimes when we run fast it takes away a lot from our bodies. So you feel a little bit of tiredness, something has gone." Rudisha became the second fastest two-lap runner in July after clocking 1:41.51 in Belgium. He then set his sights on breaking the world record. "I was planning to run fast in Reiti but I said let me have two options. Let me not rely on one race. If the weather will go bad in Reiti, which is one of the last races in the season, then what can I do?"
* Associated Press