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Naysayers can say all they want but there will be an 800m competition featuring Caster Semenya at the Olympic Games in Rio next month, the SA champion told Sowetan on Sunday.

The 25-year-old dared her critics after she bettered her seven-year-old SA record by 0.12 seconds following her victory in 1min:55.32secs at a Diamond League meeting in Monaco on Friday where SA athletics poster boy Wayde van Niekerk was also victorious.

“People say things they don’t know but, at the end of the day, there will be competition at the Olympics where I will be among the field in Rio,” said Semenya, who remains unbeaten in her specialist event so far in the year in which she has dubbed herself “Cobra”.

Semenya is again the subject of debate following the gender verification row that followed her world championships triumph in 2009.

Some scientists and commentators have been questioning her legibility to compete despite the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) saying the IAAF had failed to prove that women with naturally high levels of testosterone had a competitive edge.

“I am not concerned; people can talk. My focus is on the track and to represent my country as best as I can,” the 2012 Olympic silver medallist said.

The victory on Friday moved the Limpopo-born runner one place to 12th in the world’s all-time 800m rankings. She downplayed her strong advances towards the world record of 1:53.28 set by Jarmila Kratochvilova of the Czech Republic in 1983.

“I just want to better my times because competition depends on how one feels on the day.”

Semenya said she will decide closer to the Games whether to contest the 400m and the 800m.

SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee chief executive Tubby Reddy said: “We are not going to worry about going into controversy because the rules allow her to participate. What anybody else has to say is their problem.”

Reddy, who is Team SA’s chef de mission in Rio added: “She is mentally tough and with our support system in place we’ll reap her success in terms of the medal we are looking for.”

Source: Sowetan Live

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