Caster Semenya: The Female Version of Usain Bolt?

Yoosof FarahSenior Writer IIIAugust 23, 2009

Only an athlete like Usain Bolt can attract such media attention as South African 800m runner Caster Semenya.

However, whereas Bolt receives attention because of his sheer dominance in the 100m and 200m sprints, Semenya gets her attention because of her gender.

Semenya, who took gold in the women's 800m final at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Berlin, has caused quite a stir in the world of athletics, as the sport's top governing body—the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF)—has raised doubts over the South African's gender following her dominant performances in the heats and semi-final of the 800m event.

Many of her competitors have also raised doubts, with rival 800m runner Elisa Cusma Piccione, who finished sixth in that final, saying: "Just look at her. For me she is just not a woman."

In any case, gender controversy aside, Caster Semenya's performance was absolutely stunning as she made her World Championship debut.

In the final of the 800m, she left all her rivals trailing in her wake as she coasted to victory, a whopping 2.45 seconds ahead of her nearast competitor.

And it's two things that make this win incredibly remarkable.

Firstly, these gender doubts cast by the IAAF were made public just a day before Semenya was due to run in the 800m final.

And yet with all that inevitable worldwide media pressure on her, she didn't at all let it affect her race, and after crossing the line to take the gold medal she brushed her shoulders as if to be brushing off all these doubts everyone has about her gender.

Secondly, Caster Semenya is just 18-years old, starting her senior athletics career only eight months ago, after joining the University of Pretoria athletics club (where she is also a first year Sports Science student).

When she first joined, manager of the club Hennie Kriel said she was not a world class athlete, but she worked hard and developed quickly to become a World Champion.

To have all that media pressure and still produce an amazing, world class performance to become the 800m World Champion at 18-years old, after only getting into senior athletics just eight months previously, is a colossal achievement.

Whilst there maybe doubts over Caster Semenya's gender, the simple fact is, what she has achieved at such a young age is incredible.

If the gender verification tests Semenya has undergone in a Berlin hospital prove that she is female, who knows what this South African athlete can achieve?

She is already a World Champion, something many athletes have trained for over decade trying to achieve, and yet she has done it in a matter of months.

Usain Bolt has generated a massive amount of worldwide media attention after breaking the World Records in both the 100m Sprint (9.58secs) and 200m Sprint (19.19secs) and securing his third gold medal at the 12th IAAF World Athletics Championships.

Unfortunately, Caster Semenya has generated the same amount of attention for off-track events.

But don't you think it's about time we forgot about the gender controversy, and simply looked at this athlete's true potential on the track?

Just like Usain Bolt, provisional results have told us that Caster Semenya is one of the fastest runners in the world right now.

And if Bolt has already achieved greatness, then surely Semenya can't be that far off? After all, she's only 18-years old and already is an 800m World Champion.

Even Usain Bolt wasn't that young when he started winning senior world titles.