Savinova pips Semenya for 800m title
Russian Mariya Savinova rained on Caster Semenya’s parade on Sunday, nipping past the controversial South African for world gold in the women’s 800m.
Reigning world indoor and European champion Savinova timed her run to perfection, coming from near the back of the pack at 600m to clinch the victory in 1min 55.87sec.
Semenya, looking to bury controversy over her true gender, took silver (1:56.35), with Kenya’s 2007 champion Janeth Jepkosgei claiming bronze (1:57.42).
Jepkosgei set a fast pace from the off, followed by Jamaican Kenia Sinclair and American Alysia Montano, with Semenya in fifth ahead of Savinova.
The Kenyan hit 400m at 55.5sec and immediately Semenya made a move to pass around Russian Ekaterina Kostetskaya, then reeled in Montano, Sinclair and went around Jepkosgei with 150m to go.
As the 20-year-old hit the home stretch, all eyes at a packed Daegu Stadium were on her but the South African had not bet on Savinova who produced a startling burst to cruise past the field to the line.
It was a timely return to form for Semenya, who had come into the worlds with serious doubts over her fitness having pulled out of the recent World University Games in China with a back injury.
After her win in Berlin in 2009, Semenya found herself the target of seedy allegations that saw her cast into limbo because of doubts over her gender.
She was cleared by the sport’s world governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and largely accepted by her peers.
Semenya, who clocked a jaw-dropping personal best of 1:55.45 in storming to victory in 2009 Berlin worlds, was stood down soon afterwards and remained on the sidelines until July 2010.
The Pretoria University student was revealed to be a hermaphrodite after the leaking of test results following her 800m win in Berlin.
The incident generated anger from the South African public and government who rallied behind the athlete and sparked a major gender review by the IAAF, which in April introduced new eligibility rules for women athletes with excessive male hormones, a medical condition known as hyperandrogenism.
Semenya was cleared to compete as a woman in July 2010, nearly a year after she shot to prominence. - AFP.