Caster Semenya: Sports can and should unite people

Semenya says marriage has helped build her confidence in the run up to the Rio Olympic Games.

South Africa’s Caster Semenya, and Britain’s Lynsey Sharp compete in the Women’s 800m Semifinal during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on 18 August, 2016. Picture: AFP.

RIO DE JANEIRO - South African 800 metres champion Caster Semenya says marriage has helped build her confidence in the run up to the Rio Olympic Games in Brazil.

Semenya came under global scrutiny after winning gold at the world championships in 2009 because of her genetic make-up and alleged unfair advantage over other female athletes.

The 25-year-old ran a personal best time of 1 minute 55.28 seconds earlier today to win gold in Rio

Semenya says she believes sports can and should unite people.

"It's all about loving one another, it's not about discriminating people. It's not about looking at people at how they look, how they speak, how they run. It's not about being muscular. It's all about sports."

Gallery: Caster Semenya's golden moments at Rio Olympic Games

After winning the 2009 world title as a 19-year-old, tests reportedly revealed that she is hyperandrogenous, resulting in her body producing an abnormally high amount of testosterone, which makes her more powerful than her rivals.

An International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) rule limiting the amount of naturally occurring functional testosterone for female athletes appeared to have restricted Semenya's prospects but the rule was quashed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport last year.

In Rio, France's Justine Fedronic, who failed to qualify for the 800 final, said she had sympathy for Semenya's situation but did not consider competing against her a fair fight.

"I just want to be a better athlete. The main focus here was just to run a championship," Semenya told reporters. "The coaches told me: just focus on running, nothing else."

"Sport is meant to unite people," she added. "I think that's what we need to keep doing."

The 25-year-old South African won the silver medal in London four years ago. Ahead of the 2016 Games, there was speculation she could break Czech Jarmila Kratochvilova's world record of 1:53.28 set in 1983. It is the longest-standing athletics world record.

"To be honest, we're really not focused on breaking the world record," she said. "We are focused more on being the best we can be."

Staying with the pack for the first lap, Semenya let Niyonsaba lead the race up to the 600-metre mark before pulling ahead with an injection of pace to take the gold.

"The race was really quick. The first 400 we were pushing ourselves, it was great," Semenya told reporters.

"It was just about being patient ... I have a very quick last 200, I just have to utilize it."

Additional information by Reuters