BERLIN, August 19 – Janeth Jepkosgei won silver medal in an 800 metres race shrouded in controversy and drama over the gender of gold winner Castor Semenya of South Africa at the World Athletics Championships on Wednesday night.
Drama unfolded at the end of the race when Semenya whose gender has been questioned over the last few days failed to go through the athletes mixed zone as is the norm.
And when the South African teenager failed to appear in the post race press conference, suspicion grew.
IAAF General Secretary Pierre Weiss was a man under siege as he attempted to explain why Samenya had given the press conference a miss.
“It was a joint decision made by the bodies. This lady is not prepared. Six months ago, nobody knew her name even so to protect her it was a joint decision by the IAAF and the South Africa federation,” he said as journalists bombarded him with questions.
He however admitted that gender tests were being carried out to establish the Semenya’s gender.
“At this stage is confidential but she has undergone tests in Berlin and in South Africa but we cannot make the final decision until we have the full results from our doctors. At that time, the doctors will explain what we did and what we checked but for now I have no idea and we are relying and trusting our doctors,” added Weiss.
He however added that she will be stripped off her medal if the tests come pout against her, “If found that the athlete was not female, it will be redistributed but if she is female we close the case but we are not doctors ourselves and have wait for the decision.”
Weiss added that the international body would have preferred if Semenya had not run till the tests were out but admitted that would have been equal to admitting that she was guilty.
“We would have preferred not to have controversy but this meant we would have put pressure on South Africa, but that would have meant that we would be making conclusions and we can’t do that because we don’t know yet,” added the IAAF General Secretary.
“We could not have checked her because her best performance before coming here was achieved on July 26 during the Africa Junior Championships when she ran 1:56. She was unknown three weeks ago! We could not have anticipated that. We are fast but not a lion.”
The controversy overshadowed a spirited run by Jepksogei who defied all the odds to finish second crowning a tough few days in which she was tripped in a heat and made a mistake in the semis only qualifying as one of the fastest losers.
She was quick off the block leading until the bell when Samenya took over. The burly South African steadily pulled away while Ukraine’s Yuliya Krevsun moved up to second.
But Jepkosgei would not let them have their way. With 80 metres to go, Jepkosgei was lying third but she gave it one last desperate push which propelled her to silver.
“I am happy because am atleast going home with a medal. With 50 metres to go, I decided to that I was going to try my best and get a medal so I pushed really hard,” said Jepkosgei.
“I have had a tough season with injury and then I fell in the heats, made a mistake in the semifinals so I am delighted to walk away with something from Berlin,” she added.
Jepkosgei remained in high spirits despite losing to Samenya, “When I was starting, I had to contend with Mutola then last year Pamela came along and this year it’s the South Africa but I don’t mind competition.”
But she would not be drawn into saying what she thought of Semenya’s situation, “No comment,” was all she would say.
In the other final of day five, poor tactics cost Kenya its first gold medal in 1500 metres final when Olympic silver medallist Asbel Kiprop finished fourth.
The pre race favourite, Kiprop stayed far too behind and could not catch the fast finishing Yusuf Saad Kamel, Derese Mekonnen and Bernard Lagat who won gold, silver and bronze respectively.
Kenya’s other athlete in the race Augustine Choge was fifth after doing most of the donkey work in the race.