Caster Semenya

Updated: January 10, 2013

Event: Women’s 800 Metres
Date of birth: 1991/01/07
Personal bests: 400m (52.54), 800m (1:55.45, SA record), 1 500m (4:08.01)
Major achievements:
800 Metres: 2009 World Championships, Berlin (1st, final); 2011 World Championships, Daegu (2nd, final); 2012 Olympic Games, London (2nd, final)

After winning the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune, India, Semenya made heads turn around the world when she grabbed gold in the 800m final at the 2009 African Junior Championships. She tore around the track in Bambous, Mauritius, and clocked 1:56.72, the fastest time in the world so far that season. Two weeks later, just hours after a gender controversy made international headlines, the teenager improved the South African record to 1:55.45, securing gold at the World Championships in Berlin. It would be Semenya’s last race for 11 months as she was sidelined until July 2010, when the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) cleared her to run against women. She bounced back from the lengthy break with a silver medal at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, the next season. At the 2012 London Olympics, she proved her big match temperament once again, and despite showing poor tactical nous over the first 500m in the final, she finished second behind runaway Russian Mariya Savinova to scoop the silver medal. Born in Ga-Masehlong, a small village in rural Limpopo, Semenya has shot to fame as perhaps the country’s best performer on the track in recent seasons.