Beyond any of the potential gold medals secured by British competitors, one of the biggest talking points certain to emerge from the athletics events at the 2016 Olympics is the situation surrounding Caster Semenya.
Based on results and performances in the women’s 800m this year, Semenya could fall over on the first lap and still get back onto her feet to overtake the field and top the podium.
She has been in the headlines on numerous occasions previously because of her genetic advantages held over the majority of other women. Semenya doesn’t have the typical XX female chromosome structure and instead has the masculine XY configuration, which means she benefits from heightened levels of testosterone in comparison to her competition.
The South African burst onto the scene as an 18-year-old, running a time of 1:55.45 for the 800m. but had slipped some way off this time in recent years after policies were introduced to put a cap on testosterone levels in women’s events. She was struggling to eclipse 2:00.00 in this period.
However, last year the Court of Arbitration for Sport cancelled the policy change, meaning female athletes with this hormone advantage are again able to shine.
At a recent Diamond League competition, Semenya clocked a new personal best of 1:55.33, despite setting off on a sensibly-paced opening lap and then clearly holding back for the opening 200m on the second circuit. It looked as if she had something in reserve.
The 800m world record is the longest standing of the women’s athletic disciplines, dating back to Jarmila Kratochvilova’s 1:53.28 in 1983. Although the Czech athlete never failed a drugs test, her ultra muscular physique and appearance sparked opinions that she was gaining some sort of advantage.
Semenya is capable of beating it and what better time than on the grandest stage of the Olympics?
She was initially due to also take part in the women’s 400m, but the 25-year-old has since pulled out of that event. This could be significant as the heats, semi-finals and final are spread across the opening four days of the 2016 programme.
The 800m is spread across days six, seven and nine and the fatigue of three previous races in her legs could have cost Semenya a shot at the world record.
Now it is up to Semenya how hard she wants to push or how many headlines she wants to make. Winning looks a formality, but the questions will almost certainly go much deeper.
Ladbrokes is not an official sponsor of the Olympics and is no way affiliated with any of the competing athletes, events or competitions being held in Rio de Janeiro this summer.