South African runner Caster Semenya seems to finally be enjoying life again after a tumultuous two years in which the high of world championship glory was offset by the low of questions over her gender.
As she sat in a hotel meeting room on a rainy Thursday afternoon, the 800 metres world champion was able to reveal a lighter side to her character after months of intense scrutiny and doubts about her femininity
"I can do anything I want in any sport except swimming," the 20-year-old University of Pretoria student said. "It's been a long time since I swam."
For parts of 2009 and 2010, it was also a long time between competitive running for Semenya. An International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) gender investigation had kept her off the track for more than 10 months before she was cleared to compete again in July 2010.
"I would not call it a nightmare because I survived," Semenya said of the forced hiatus. "But seeing other people running when I wasn't was a little bit frustrating."
It would not have destroyed her never to have competed again, Semenya said, but it would have been depressing. She tried soccer, even karate and boxing while younger, but running became her passion.
She does a lot of that these days as training intensifies for her title defence at Daegu, South Korea in August.
It means life is normal again, said Semenya, who is in Oregon to run an 800 metres in Saturday's Prefontaine Classic Diamond League meeting. Her times need to drop dramatically to match her world championship run of 1:55.45 in Berlin two years ago, but she has confidence they will come. "I think I can defend my title, but it depends on the concentration," she said.