Middle-distance runner Caster Semenya has been controversially omitted from the list of finalists for the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Female Athlete of the Year award.
Semenya enjoyed a near-flawless season, despite taking a risk by expanding her range to include the 400m sprint in her schedule at major championships for the first time.
She opened her international campaign as the only woman to earn two gold medals in individuals events on the track at the Commonwealth Games, winning the 800m and 1 500m finals on Australia’s Gold Coast in April, and she went on to secure the 400m and 800m titles at the African Championships in Asaba in August.
The 27-year-old athlete closed out her season by earning three medals at the IAAF Continental Cup in Ostrava and successfully defending her 800m crown in the IAAF Diamond League series.
Semenya, who also went unbeaten in the 800m event for the third year in a row, topped the world rankings over the 800m (1:54.25) and 1 000m (2:30.70) distances.
While she was recognised for her efforts by receiving three trophies at the recent SA Sport Awards, however, Semenya was set to challenge the IAAF and its members in an imminent court battle in an attempt to have the global body’s new gender rules overturned.
With the unresolved matter giving the IAAF’s public image a significant knock, Semenya did not receive sufficient support from the organisation or its members, which was crucial to have any chance of lifting the prestigious accolade.
In the three-way voting process for the World Female Athlete of the Year award, the public votes counted for only 25% of the final result, with the IAAF council and the federation’s members accounting for 75% of the decision.
In Semenya’s absence, the list of five finalists included British sprinter Dina Asher-Smith, Kenyan steeplechase star Beatrice Chepkoech, versatile Colombian jumper Caterine Ibarguen, Bahamian speedster Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Belgian heptathlete Nafi Thiam.