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Embattled South African track star starts a sports academy, mulls her future

Photo by Themba Hadebe

Photo by Themba Hadebe

PRETORIA, South Africa -- Caster Semenya made a rare public appearance to launch her own sports academy on Wednesday, saying only she would decide her running future.

The 19-year-old runner, who has been at the center of a gender dispute, will be the president of the Caster Semenya Sports Academy.

Semenya has not run since winning the women's 800-meter title at the world championships in August. The world track and field body is expected to release her gender test results in June, and Semenya says she will return to competition on June 24 at a meet in Zaragoza, Spain.

"When I came to athletics, I am the one who decided to run," Semenya said the news conference. "They (the IAAF) can make their own decisions. But don't forget I am the one who must say so. I will decide if I walk out or if I stay there."

When asked by The Associated Press if she had thought seriously about giving up, Semenya smiled and said no.

"I don't quit," she said.

But in her first public appearance since she was prevented from taking part in a meet in Stellenbosch in March, Semenya cast doubt on her long-term future in track and field.

"I cannot do it for a living," said Semenya, with her coach Michael Seme beside her. "Athletics is athletics. When you do sport you are gambling. You run, you win, you lose. It doesn't matter if you are competing or you are not competing."

Semenya is studying at the University of Pretoria, and said she had other options.

"I don't think sport is something that I can take for life," she said. "I still have my academy, my studies ... You know I'm good in everything. I cannot say athletics is my first option."

Semenya's comments hinted at her frustration at the lengthy IAAF test process.

She has not competed since her stunning debut at the world champs in Berlin, where she blew away the field in the 800-meter final. It also led the IAAF to order gender tests.

The IAAF has repeatedly said it will not make any public comment on Semenya until her medical process is complete.

Semenya began by thanking her advisers, coach, family and people of South Africa for their support.

"They've been good to me," she said.

She also said "the scandals, I can't talk about now because we are concentrating on the academy and the website."

Semenya said the goal of the academy is to help talented athletes who came from "humble" backgrounds, like her.

"We are going to help the young, talented athletes become world champions," she said.

Semenya said she turned to running after competing in soccer because she was good at it.

"I can run fast," she said.