GOLD COAST, Australia, Apr 13 – South Africa’s Caster Semenya shrugged off controversy over her right to compete after completing a Commonwealth Games double with victory in the women’s 800 metres on Friday.
The 27-year-old, who identifies as a woman but has elevated testosterone levels, dedicated her gold medal to the late Winnie Mandela after her crushing win.
Elsewhere on the Gold Coast, English tabloid darling Tom Daley captured diving gold before weighing in on gay rights, while 15-year-old shooter Anish Bhanwala became India’s youngest ever Commonwealth champion.
At the athletics, England’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson won heptathlon gold, but New Zealand’s Valerie Adams failed to take a fourth straight shot put crown, the mighty Kiwi settling for silver.
Semenya, who won the 1,500m title earlier this week, smashed her rivals once again to clock a Games record of one minute, 56.68 seconds.
After the race, she revealed how anti-apartheid hero Mandela, who died two weeks ago after a long illness, had helped her through adversity.
“She was a friend and always told me to be myself, to love myself — don’t listen to the noise, don’t entertain nonsense,” said Semenya. “To just go out and show the world what I can do.”
Semenya left Kenya’s Margaret Nyairera Wambui for dead coming off the final bend to win with plenty to spare as Jamaica’s Natoya Goule took bronze.
However, questions persist over whether Semenya should be allowed to compete because of her hyperandrogenism, which some feel gives her an unfair advantage.
“I understand how to handle emotions, how to handle negativity and turn it into positivity,” said the world champion.
“I’ve had to learn how to manage it myself, how to face the world. It’s not about what other people think of me, it’s about how I think of myself.”
Johnson-Thompson secured the second leg of what she hopes will be a golden treble.
– ‘Mum’s crying again’ –
The 25-year-old, who won pentathlon gold at last month’s world indoor championships, slumped to the track clutching her calf after finishing fourth in her 800m heat, good enough for victory with a total of 6,255 points.
“It has been a very emotional day for me,” said Johnson-Thompson. “I just spoke to my mum — she was crying as always.”
Double Olympic champion Adams was stunned by Danniel Thomas-Dodd in the women’s shot put as the Jamaican took gold with a heave of 19.36 metres.
Olympic and world steeplechase champion Conseslus Kipruto led a Kenyan medals sweep in the 3,000m steeplechase with a Games record of 8:10.08, as world silver medallist Joshua Cheptegei won the men’s 10,000m in a Commonwealth best 27:19.62 to complete a long-distance double.
Meanwhile, Canada’s Alysha Newman upset New Zealand’s Olympic bronze medallist Eliza McCartney to win the women’s pole vault.
There was a surprise gold for Nigeria’s Tobiloba Amusan in the women’s 100m hurdles, in the absence of Australian world champion Sally Pearson due to injury.
Daley’s gold medal in the 10-metre synchro diving with Daniel Goodfellow was followed by an impassioned plea for several Commonwealth countries to relax their anti-gay stance.
“There are 37 countries in the Commonwealth where it’s currently illegal to be who I am,” he said, calling for that number to come down before the 2022 Birmingham Games.
India won two of Friday’s three shooting finals, Tejaswini Sawant winning the women’s 50m rifle as schoolboy Anish bagged gold in the men’s 25m rapid fire pistol.
Singapore’s Feng Tianwei and Yu Mengyu added to their list of table tennis titles with victory in the women’s doubles -– days after Singapore missed out on women’s team gold for the first time since the sport joined the Games in 2002.