21 August 2009

Speed Demon

Scandal at this year's World Championships in Athletics: is women's 800m winner Caster Semenya... a woman?

I didn't actually see the race (the spin class I was taking this morning prevented me from doing so, but NOT from watching Monique's 200m heat. More on that in a tick) but by the time I got home from training tonight, I'd heard all sorts of things about the winner.

My mum, who is for the record, highly judgmental of people based on appearances and other outward aspects of a person, seemed quick in her conclusion that Caster is not of the fairer sex. "Look at it!" she fairly cried. "Just the way it's standing around, and those arms..."
Personally, I find judging someone's sex based on their arms particularly offensive, because mine used to be pretty huge, and garnered me the affectionate nickname of "man arms".

I'll admit, Caster is not hugely feminine. She is extraordinarily muscular, runs with a rather... manly gait, and her pre-race mannerisms were not unlike those of the male sprinters. Then there's the glowing reference from her high school principal, that he "didn't realise she was a girl until the eleventh grade" and that she wore the boys' uniform, not the girls'. Umm, okay?

Questions were also raised at her rate of improvement: last year she was running 2:04, last night she finished in a swift 1:55. This is, to be fair, pretty redundant. An improvement of 9 seconds over 800m in an eighteen-year-old boy would also seem pretty suspicious, and as such can hardly be used as further proof that she might in fact be a he.

It's all kind of reminiscent of the 1972 Olympics, where female athletes were gender tested. Shane Gould, who until 2000 was Australia's only gold medallist in the women's 200m freestyle (and who won, in addition to that race, the 200m individual medley and 400m freestyle at the same Olympics, all in world record time), wrote about it in her book, Tumble Turns. She commented on the fact that due to suspect performances by "female" East German and Soviet athletes, she was required to get nekkid for officials so that they could confirm her sex. Frightening.

News reports about Caster suggest she has been "sex tested" before. But she remains under investigation by the IAAF, and, if she's found to be, well, male... then she loses her medal. Guts, though. I mean, let's assume for all intents and purposes that she is a girl. What an awful, awful thing for an eighteen-year-old girl to have to endure. The entire world is questioning her gender. As if she doesn't have enough on her plate.


Anyway, more exciting for me was watching Monique Williams' heat of the 200m, where she almost outran Allyson Felix (another favourite of mine. In fact, I still have the photo finish from the 200m final in Osaka two years ago, where Allyson won with a classy 21.81s, on my wall). Monique is from Tokoroa, which is a... not so nice town not far from my hometown of Hamilton. She's wicked fast. In my track days I was often in the same heat as her for 100m and 200m, which as you can imagine is fairly embarrassing when she's finishing in about 23s and I'm taking, like, 30s. This morning she outdid herself: 22.96s and a new national record. Finishing second in her heat, she secured a place in tonight's semi-finals, which I may not get to watch live. Disappointing. Here's hoping she runs even faster tonight!

Tomorrow (or today, as it's now 12:36am) I get to do makeup, and get paid for it! Wow, it's only been... five months since I graduated and I'm finally putting my qualification to use. Well, for money anyway. I do love working on films for free, especially when they involve my faves. I'm doing makeup for five gorgeous girls who are hitting the Waikato University Law Society Ball. Excitement!

With that said... I have to get an entire day's worth of training in before 12:30pm... so I've got the earliest start of all time.

Peace, love and fast 200m semi-finals.

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