South African Caster Semenya will draw inspiration from Nelson Mandela and Maria Mutola as she seeks to reclaim her 800-metre golden girl crown at the Olympics.
It was political icon Mandela who stood by the 21-year-old during her darkest days after winning the 2009 world title as rivals questioned her gender while her only ‘fault’ was having three times the testosterone of an average female.
And to 2000 Sydney Olympics 800m champion Mutola from Mozambique fell the task of rekindling the spirits of a shy woman born in a north-eastern South African village who began running to train for football.
The sporting tale of Semenya is one of triumph, humiliation and a resilience. World athletics body IAAF took notice of previously unknown Semenya when she clipped almost eight seconds off her 800m time during 2009 and destroyed a star-studded field in Berlin to win the world title.
Drug tests were followed by gender tests and the situation saw Caster complaining of “unwarranted and invasive scrutiny of the most intimate and private details of my being”.
She was barred from the track for almost a year before being cleared to run again. “If I win gold, I will dedicate it to Nelson Mandela,” said the usually media-shy Semenya.
“He motivated me during the dark days after my world title victory, made me believe in what I do best and I could win more medals. Without his support, maybe I would not be where I am today.”
If Mandela, the dashing lawyer who spent 27 years in jail for opposing apartheid before becoming the first leader of a non-racial South Africa, inspires Semenya, Mutola is the force driving her onwards after replacing Michael Seme as coach.
“I believe she is far ahead of me as she clocked 1min 55.45 seconds at 18. At that age I had not managed to break two minutes,” said multiple world title winner Mutola.
“Caster holds the key to her future. She must motivate herself, believe in herself.
“I sense that everything is falling into place and the perfect ending would be for her to win gold at her first Olympics.”
Dereck Chisora responded to David Haye’s prediction of an early end to their grudge match by declaring he would be the “craziest” ever in the ring.
The British rivals, separated by a steel fence and flanked by security guards, came head to head in the final press conference before Saturday’s showdown at Upton Park.
Haye opened hostilities yesterday by declaring he would knock out Chisora in the opening rounds, but his opponent insisted he would fight fire with fire.
“I’m going to be the craziest I’ve been when I come into the ring,” he said. “Everything has gone well for me, I have no injuries and it’s going to be a great fight.
“This is about pride. This ain’t about ‘the winner of this can fight the Klitschkos’. Even when David Haye went to fight the Klitschkos, he had nothing.
“It’s a big fight, everybody’s watching it, it’s going to be explosive, it’s going to be amazing and I’m well prepared for this fight.”
Haye and Chisora traded blows at a press conference in the aftermath of Chisora’s loss to Vitali Klitschko in February. The disgraceful scenes in Munich were universally condemned, but they have been given the chance to settle their differences in the ring.
“Dereck’s getting knocked out quick. The harder he comes the quicker he gets KO’d,” Haye said. “My training has been good. I’m healthy, fit and fast.
“This training camp has been one of the first I’ve been able to do everything we planned because nothing has broken down.
“It’s a situation I’ve never been in before and I can feel the difference. My sparring partners have felt the difference as well. Unfortunately for Dereck he’s fighting the best ever Hayemaker.”
Puerto Rican Luis Pabon has been confirmed as the referee for the fight and might have his hands full as Chisora added: “I like to give it my all, I like to be tired after my own fight, I want to push myself to boundaries I’ve never been before.
“I’m not looking to box him. I want to fight, whatever the round is, I want to fight and I want to punch him. I’m going to be all over him like a baby’s rash, he’s never fought anybody like me.”
Amir Khan fears doping may be rife in boxing as he demands more stringent testing across the board following recent scandals.
The British light-welterweight saw his hopes of avenging a controversial December defeat by Lamont Peterson scuppered when the new WBA and IBF champion tested positive for a banned substance ahead of their May rematch.
Peterson’s use of synthetic testosterone – which he claims is for medical reasons – is one of a number of recent doping-related scandals within the sport.
Elite fighters such as Andre Berto and Antonio Tarver have also been caught out recently, while British heavyweight Larry Olubamiwo was banned for multiple violations. Londoner Olubamiwo claimed drug-taking is commonplace and Khan fears he could be right.
The Bolton fighter, who challenges Danny Garcia for the WBC title in Las Vegas on Saturday, while also hoping to reclaim his old WBA belt, believes more needs to be done.
Khan said: “I hope the situation does clean itself up. Berto is anot-her fighter who just got caught. All these fighters are getting caught. There are a lot of fighters out there who might be taking it.
“You never know. But at least it makes people realise this is a serious matter and if they do get caught, they will get banned.”
Referring to Peterson’s test, the 2004 Olympic silver medallist said: “Imagine me taking something like that. I’d be an animal.
“We need to clean up sport and that is what’s happening now. Since the Lamont Peterson issue, so many fighters have been caught.
“Lamont was the first guy to get caught recently and then since then we’ve had Andre Berto, Antonio Tarver and people like that.
“We’ve had top-class world champions and former world champions being caught. It’s bad.
“How many other people are on this stuff? You just don’t know.”
Peterson – who beat Khan by split decision in December – wanted more stringent testing for the rematch, while Floyd Mayweather and Nonito Donaire advocate methods such as out-of-competition testing and blood sampling.