Caster Semenya signs with football club owned by South Africa captain Janine van Wyk

The double Olympic champion will train with JVW FC and start playing next season but clarifies she has not retired from athletics.

By ZK Goh

Move aside, Usain Bolt: Caster Semenya has set her sights on football.

The double Olympic champion in the 800m has signed for South African women's team JVW FC, which is owned by Olympian and national team captain Janine van Wyk.

Her signing has come too late to meet the club's registration deadline this season, but the runner says she intends to play next season.

JVW play in the Gauteng provincial division of the South African Football Association's Safsol League, and are currently second in their competition.

Just hours after announcing her football adventure rumours started flying that she has retired from athletics.

However, Semenya insists she has not ended her career on the running track.

"Being a footballer doesn't mean I'm no longer a track and field athlete," she wrote on Twitter.


While she is ineligible to play league matches this season, Semenya will train with the club, who also have Olympians Mamello Makhabane and Amanda Dlamini, another former Banyana Banyana captain, on their roster.

By all accounts, Semenya, who played football at school, has what it takes to make it with the team.

Van Wyk, who is currently on the books of Danish club Fortuna Hjorring, attended Semenya's first training session.

"I welcomed her at her first training with the team on Tuesday, and was impressed to see that she definitely has all the fundamentals," van Wyk said.

"I am extremely elated to have such an iconic athlete join my football club. I am absolutely honoured that out of all the other women’s clubs around the world, she has chosen JVW as the club where she would like to start showcasing her football skills." – Janine van Wyk

"I look forward to her working with Coach Ciara and our First Team where I am sure she will sharpen up and get ready to play in 2020," van Wyk added. "I have no doubt that Caster will fit right in."

IAAF court battle

In April 2018, athletics' governing body IAAF issued Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification requiring female athletes with naturally high concentrations of testosterone (Difference of Sexual Development, or DSD) to reduce their testosterone levels sufficiently to be able to compete at distances between 400 metres and a mile.

Semenya, who is affected by the strict rules, appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in February, but CAS ruled against her in April.

Semenya took her case to the Swiss Supreme Court, who suspended the regulations pending another appeal, leading to her being provisionally named in South Africa's World Championships squad.

The IAAF was given until 25 June to respond to the action with the Swiss court extending the suspension of the regulations by six days, enabling her to run in the Prefontaine Classic where she extended her unbeaten record over 800m to 31 races.

But the court then reversed its own ruling, ending Semenya's hopes of competing in Doha later this month.

Now, it appears Semenya has decided to switch sports.

"I am grateful for this opportunity and I appreciate the love and support I already get from the team," she said.

"I am looking forward to this new journey, and hopefully I can contribute as much as I can to the club."

Bolt's footsteps

She will be aiming to go one better than Bolt, and play in an actual league game.

The Jamaican eight-time Olympic champion had trials at various clubs, including Germany's Borussia Dortmund, Norway's Stromsgodset, and Australian A-League side Central Coast Mariners.

While he never took the pitch with Dortmund or Stromsgodset, Bolt did play in specially-arranged friendlies for the Mariners, scoring in a trial match against an amateur side.

Former Spain coach Vicente del Bosque even told Olympic Channel he would play Bolt as an attacking full-back to make use of his speed.

But Bolt was not able to agree on a contract with Central Coast, who were reportedly not able to meet his salary demands, and he confirmed his retirement from all sport in January.

As for Semenya, with her new club pushing for promotion to South Africa's new semi-professional top-division National League, she could end up making her debut at the top level, something Bolt was unable to achieve.