Caster Semenya smashes Zola Budd record as controversy persists

GOLD COAST: Caster Semenya smashed Zola Budd’s long-standing South African 1,500 meters record at the Commonwealth Games on Tuesday as her dominance on the track continued to be dogged by controversy off it.

Semenya, who has elevated levels of male sex hormones, made her move on the last lap, overtaking Kenya’s Beatrice Chepkoech on the final bend and accelerating away to win in 4min 0.71sec.

The 27-year-old’s victory by more than two seconds sliced 1.1sec off Budd’s 1984 South African record and earned Semenya her first Commonwealth medal, to go with her swathe of Olympic and world titles over 800m.

It was a victorious moment for Semenya, who called for assistance for an exhausted rival lying on the track before setting off for a lap of honor wrapped in the national flag.

“I want everyone to know that South African athletes are here to stay. I’m proud to be a South African. We are a great nation and we want to display that to the world,” she said.

But Semenya has long endured scrutiny over her hyperandrogenism and this week, Australian 800m runner Brittany McGowan raised familiar concerns.

“It’s a tough one. It’s tough for a lot of women in the 800m, 400m and 1500m at the moment to compare ourselves and be judged by our governing bodies on those times,” McGowan reportedly said.

Semenya’s emphatic win comes with her future again clouded after the Court of Arbitration for Sport suspended the IAAF’s hyperandrogenism regulations, which now look set to be changed.

However, she is now eyeing the world record in the 800m, in which she will be hot favorite when the heats start on Thursday.

Semenya’s appearance raises new questions at the Games, whose first transgender athlete, New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, dramatically injured herself mid-competition on Monday and later said her career may be over.

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