Clem Sunter

The sweetest thing

2009-08-26 09:11

When the last Australian wicket fell in the final match of the Ashes, you could see the England team erupt with joy. Victory is the sweetest thing that you can taste, but only at the precise moment you achieve it. All the hard work pays off.

It may be a deal that you clinch to boost your business, it may be a putt that you sink on the eighteenth green, it may even be a "yes" to a marriage proposal that you make - but that instant is captured forever in time.

Spare a thought, therefore, for Caster Semenya when she won the 800m final at the World Athletic Championship. She was denied that moment of bliss because of the shadow cast by the controversy over her gender.

I find the whole affair bewildering. There has to be a simple and obvious test which we all know about. Anything more opens a can of worms in that it becomes a complicated judgement call by a group of experts.

I can understand tests for performance-enhancing drugs because we all know that it is cheating if an athlete takes them. But this is different. This is delving into the very essence of what it means to be a human being. What on earth, for example, is a psychologist doing as part of the investigating team? I have never heard of an athlete's performance affected by whether he or she thinks like a man or a woman. What does it matter anyway?

The other implication which disturbs me is that outward appearance and internal chemistry are inextricably linked. I would hazard a guess that there are plenty of people whose looks raise no questions but whose body chemistry is different to the norm. Will all athletes be subjected to random gender testing at the same time as they are tested for drugs? I don't think so.

Whatever the outcome, all I can do is wish Caster the same joy one day that she gave to me when I watched her win the race on television. I hadn't heard about the controversy at the time so I just applauded one of the greatest feats on the track by a South African during my lifetime.

I hope she goes on to beat the world record and gain Olympic gold; and experience the sweetest thing of knowing she did it against all odds. Caster, you're simply the best, faster than all the rest.

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