Having been cast aside by the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations), two-time Olympic 800m gold medallist Caster Semenya has joined JVW, a women’s football team South Africa.
With the 28-year-old unable to compete without taking testosterone-reducing drugs following a rule change by the athletics’ governing body, meant that she couldn’t defend her 800m World Championship title in Doha – despite the fact that she is fighting the rule change through the courts.
Now training with the Gauteng-based women’s football club, the three-time world champion, who announced in July that she would not be defending her 800m world title, cannot start playing for JVW until the 2020 season, having joined outside the country’s transfer window.
The 28-year-old Olympics legend said: “I am looking forward to this new journey and am really appreciating the love and support from my new teammates”.
Formed in 2013 by current South Africa Women’s captain, Janine van Wyk, she said: “Caster is on a break at the moment which is why she has time on her hands to do something different.
“In training you can see football is there, in her, but we still need to work on her a bit because it’s very different to athletics”.
van Wyk did, however, state: “She’s made it really clear to me that she’s not giving up running at all.
“It’s amazing for the football club. The recognition women’s football in South Africa will get is massive.
“To have her play in the league over here is incredible and I think young girls and her team-mates will draw a lot of inspiration from Caster.”
Semenya is not the first athlete to switch to football – after retiring in 2017, Usain Bolt trained with Norwegian club Stromsgodset and Australian side Central Coast Mariners, but did not secure a contract. She is also following in the footsteps of her former coach Maria Mutola, who also turned to football after athletics.
The IAAF introduced its rule change because it argues female athletes with differences of sexual development (DSD) – such as Semenya – have “a competitive advantage”.