Thousands of fans lined up at the Johannesburg airport to await the South African runner, Caster Semenya, upon her return from Germany yesterday morning after competing at the world championships. The fans were expressing solidarity with the 18-year-old who will soon be undergoing gender testing following her 800-metre win in Berlin, as a result of questions arising from the runner's muscular build and deep voice.
Despite the queries, the champion's fans seem unperturbed and are embracing her stunning victory. Some of the support was mobilised by women's rights and political groups. A homemade poster outside the airport declared Semenya "our first lady of sport". Yvonne Maake, a 21-year-old woman, holding a mini vuvuzela - a plastic horn more commonly seen at football matches - and wearing a yellow Team South Africa jersey, said she came with her family from nearby Tembisa "to welcome our champion, Caster. We want to show her support and that we love her, so she can be proud."
Semenya's parents were also amidst the crowd. Semenya's mother told journalists she was proud and brushed aside questions about whether Semenya should be able to race in women's events. Although the South African is not accused of trying to cheat, she will be undergoing the assessment to rule out any possibility that she may unknowingly have a medical condition that blurs her gender and gives her unfair advantages or benefits over other female competitors.
Semenya will be consulting a gynaecologist, an endocrinologist, a psychologist, an internal medicine specialist and a gender expert, after which the IAAF will make a decision. It all depends on whether "her conditions accord no advantage over other females" or not. Her sympathetic compatriots are furious that these questions have arisen at all, let alone been made public. Lamine Diack, the world athletics body president, admitted on Sunday that the affair was handled badly.
"I deeply regret that confidentiality was breached in this case. I have requested an internal inquiry to ensure that this never happens again," he said. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org