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Rio Olympics: Caster Semenya advances to 800 semifinals

South Africa's Caster Semenya prepares to compete in

South Africa's Caster Semenya prepares to compete in the Women's 800m Round 1 during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 17, 2016. Credit: Getty Images / Olivier Morin

RIO DE JANEIRO — Caster Semenya cruised through her 800-meter heat at the Olympics on Wednesday and then was as quick through the media section at the stadium, declining to talk to reporters in apparent anticipation of a barrage of questions on track and field’s contentious testosterone rules.

Semenya, the 25-year-old South African runner caught up in a sex-test drama at the 2009 world championships, has been under intense scrutiny ever since.

With her focus only on competition and after a dominating run this season, Semenya is tipped to have a chance of breaking the 800-meter world record in Rio.

“I’m just focusing on enjoying my championships,” Semenya said in an audio file sent to The Associated Press after her first race in Rio. “Times don’t matter in championships but medals, gold medals, silver or bronze, those are targets. So we are not going to worry about times at the moment.”

Semenya said she was feeling good, although her victory in heat 2 was just about getting used to the conditions. She was in cruise mode for about 600 meters of her race, only briefly unleashing her power with about 200 to go to ensure she was in a good position for the home straight.

She finished in 1 minute 59.31, going sub-2 minutes while going well below full pace for most of the race.

“Trying to feel my body first so I can feel comfortable,” she said. “I tried to get in the top two the last 200 so I can win and then I can be safe for the semifinals. So far, we’re good.”

Semenya is the outright favorite for the 800 title after the IAAF was last year forced to shelve rules that limited testosterone levels for some female athletes. Semenya is believed to have a condition known as hyperandrogenism, which gives her significantly higher levels of the testosterone than most women.

Importantly, though, Semenya is not the only athlete at the Olympics with the condition. At least two other women with high testosterone levels are expected to compete in Rio, and experts say there are likely more after Indian sprinter Dutee Chand’s legal challenge forced the IAAF to temporarily drop the testosterone-limiting regulations last year.


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