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Zlatan Ibrahimovic set 12 challenges by fan to win internet domain name

Take Zlat! Cheeky fan sets Ibrahimovic 12 bizarre challenges to win website in his name

James Andrew


10:57 GMT, 5 January 2013



10:57 GMT, 5 January 2013

Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic may have finally met his match – but not with another player – instead with a cheeky fan who bought the internet domain name Zlatan.fr and set him a number of ridiculous challenges if he wants to win it off him.

The bold Paris Saint-Germain fan, who has opted to remain anonymous, bought the website name shortly after the striker completed his move from AC Milan to the French capital in the summer.

The Swedish superstar is a hit in Paris and is understood to be keen on strengthen his marketing ties in France and the Zlatan.fr domain name would be the perfect way to promote his brand.

Met his match: PSG star Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been set a number of challenges if he wants to win website in his name

Met his match: PSG star Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been set a number of challenges if he wants to win website in his name

And the fan says he is willing to hand over the registration details for free, so long as the striker completes one of the 12 challenges that have been laid out.

In an open letter to the Swede on the website, the fan writes: ‘When you signed in my beloved club, It was an incredible surprise to see that the domain name 'Zlatan.fr' was available.

Bold: The PSG fan wrote a letter to Ibrahimovic

Bold: The PSG fan wrote a letter to Ibrahimovic

‘So, I rushed to book it as I really didn't want a malicious person to take advantage of your name and image.

‘So now, I give you the opportunity to have it back. And for that, as you can imagine, we won’t bother with lawyers and endless procedures. Obviously it would be a waste of time and money for both of us. Instead, I got a much funnier idea. And as I am a very good guy, I let you have the choice of weapons.’

Hair we go! One of the challenges was for Ibrahimovic to give up a lock of his hair

Hair we go! One of the challenges was for Ibrahimovic to give up a lock of his hair

All of the challenges are ridiculous, though. Ranging from playing Zlatan at Fifa on the Playstation, to letting the striker beat up the fan using taekwondo, and even donating a lock of his hair, the fan certainly has a pretty vivid imagination.

It is not clear if Ibrahimovic is aware of the website or the challenges he has been set, but it is unlikely, all the challenges are below.

Unbelievable: Ibrahimovic clebrates his wonder goal against England

Unbelievable: Ibrahimovic clebrates his wonder goal against England


1. Offer me a dedicated PSG jersey, with my name on it and the following quote: “After Zlatan, you really are the best !”

2. Stay at my place for a month. This way, all my life, I could say “Ibra Sure, he used to sleep on my couch for a while.”

3. Offer me 3 lifetime season tickets, for two of my friends and I. Obviously, I’m talking about Official tribune tickets… don’t try to fool me with your crappy H Blue tribune tickets…

4. Win penalty kicks against me, at the Parc des Princes of course, so that you’re at home and have no excuse in case I win.

5. Beat me at taekwondo. I’ve heard you’re not too bad at it. As I’ve never practiced that sport myself, I recommend you to choose this challenge.

6. Give me one of your locks of hair as a gift. Samson’s strength came from his long hair. I think it works the same way with you. Then, I can make a key ring with it, which will bring me power for the rest of my life.

7. Beat me at FIFA13. You can choose the teams but, anyway trust me, there is no way you can make it.

8. Score a more-than-30-meter-backflip-goal in an official game. Just kidding… this is not realistic.

9. Let me slap you in the face, without saying a word… and in public obviously.

10. Offer a bare-chested dedicated photo of you to my girlfriend. Frankly, among all of those challenges, I have to confess it’s not my favorite. I’m getting fed up to see twinkles in her eyes when you take off your jersey at the end of a game.

11. Manage to have Neymar sign at PSG during the 2013 summer transfer market.

12. Simply ask me to let you have this domain name for free… but face to face and – as a tribute to Guillaume – in French obviously.

Mike Nicholls, former Gloucester captain has died

Flag flies at half mast at Gloucester as club mourns legendary captain Nicholls



16:19 GMT, 24 December 2012

Former Gloucester captain Mike Nicholls has died, the club have announced.

Nicholls made 483 first team appearances for the Cherry and Whites in a career that spanned 17 years, lifting the club's first trophy after a 17-6 victory over Moseley in the final of the 1972 national cup.

Following his retirement as a player, Nicholls served the club as a coach and a member of the committee.

Legend: Former Gloucester captain Mike Nicholls has died

Legend: Former Gloucester captain Mike Nicholls has died

Legend: Former Gloucester captain Mike Nicholls has died

A statement on the club website said: 'Everyone at Gloucester Rugby is saddened to hear of the passing of former captain, and one of the true legends of the club, Mike Nicholls.

'Out of respect for Mike, the Gloucester Rugby flag at Kingsholm is flying at half mast today, and will do so until after the funeral, details of which will be communicated in due course.

'A player who led from the front, the long serving hooker captained Gloucester for three seasons, 1970-71, 1971-72 and then again 1973-74.

'Under his captaincy the team were a formidable unit, not always pretty to watch but very effective.

'Under Mike Nicholls' inspiring leadership the team consistently turned on performances on the big occasions.

'Mike's career was at a pinnacle in the club's centenary season of 1973-74 when his team recorded a club record of 39 wins and scored 1000 points. Their 24-14 win against an International XV in the centenary match is remembered by all who were there.

'The Gloucester playing record during the three years of his captaincy speaks for itself: P154 W107 L35 D9. He is regarded as one of the finest captains the club has known.

'Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.'

Matt Parker will learn rugby is not exact science – Chris Foy

New guru Parker will soon learn rugby is not an exact science



23:00 GMT, 22 November 2012

When England were building towards their 2003 World Cup triumph, Clive Woodward repeatedly talked of the ‘one per centers’ — the focus on minor details which combined to give his side a crucial advantage.

Now the concept is back on the agenda for the national team, but this time they are taking their cue from British Cycling. Matt Parker, the sports scientist who was head of ‘marginal gains’ and played such a part in the glorious exploits in the Olympic Velodrome during London 2012, will soon be working at Twickenham as head of athletic performance.

It was unfortunate that news of the appointment should come on the back of a grim home defeat. This presented a comedic open-goal, and sure enough one wag on Twitter quipped: ‘It isn’t a marginal gain they need, it’s a cavernous gain.’

Different ball game: Matt Parker was head of 'marginal gains' for the cycling team at the Olympics

Different ball game: Matt Parker was head of 'marginal gains' for the cycling team at the Olympics

Yet, what the new recruit represents is an encouraging desire for England to set global standards once again, using any trump card they can muster. Expertise from within the ranks of British Cycling could serve as a major asset in that regard.

More from Chris Foy…

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Chris Foy: Six injured and counting, Lancaster needs stability

World of rugby: Ireland facing the music as Strauss gets a call-up

Chris Foy: More referees will follow Lawrence's example and quit if this hounding goes on

Chris Foy: Let's play! Time for TV war to take a back seat as the Heineken Cup returns

Chris Foy: On your bike, Cowan! No rest for the Gloucester new boy

World of Rugby: Tait's style is a welcome change from big hitters

Chris Foy: This legacy could make kids losers


However, what Parker will find is a sport where the appliance of science is, in a sense, a more subtle and complex business than it is in cycling. Rugby presents a less defined challenge for his winning methods. Granted, much comes down to physical preparation and a successful mind-set, which he will recognise, but raw emotion and collective will come into the equation in a way he may not.

Rugby and science have become joined at the hip. Players wear GPS tracking devices to gauge speed and movement, their heart-rate is monitored and analysed. Diets are strictly controlled, gym regimes are meticulously prepared.

But this is a game which puts an onus on raw courage and that cannot be drilled, although the work of psychologists helps. And old-school values have not been wholly eradicated. In France, there is still plenty of bread on the table and many players still enjoy a drop of red. Saracens have made a virtue of their ‘bonding’ weekends at Munich’s Oktoberfest and elsewhere.

There was a striking contrast after Argentina’s win in Cardiff this month. While the vanquished trooped off for stints in an ice chamber to aid their recovery, the victors cracked open a crate of cider. So, England are right to embrace progress and a visionary approach but they would be wise to strike a balance between new ways and old.

Quote of the week

England flanker Tom Wood reveals how he manages a persistent foot problem with this unusual alternative to a traditional spa session: ‘I put my foot in ice — I make it hot and cold to flush inflammation out.

‘I also claw with my feet in buckets of sand and rice in order to strengthen the toes. I try to do it three times a day. It’s generally done down in the physio room.

‘It’s quite nice here at Pennyhill Park, we have the massage and physio room downstairs, with the TV on, so I can just head down there and get the various treatments I need. I can get pampered for an afternoon in a bucket of rice!’

Rice is nice: Tom Wood loves to be pampered in a bucket of grain

Rice is nice: Tom Wood loves to be pampered in a bucket of grain

You’re still a hero at Exeter, Tom

Rob Baxter, Exeter’s director of rugby, evidently has a canny grasp of man-management. On Tuesday, he was given the unexpected news that Tom Johnson would be back with the Chiefs this weekend, after being dropped by England. His response was of the arm-round-the-shoulder kind — a strong public statement of faith in his surely despondent player.

‘Tom’s been incredibly unlucky but sometimes players get dropped on the back of a team performance rather than an individual one and that is what has happened with him,’ said Baxter. ‘He’s in that unfortunate position where he hasn’t done anything wrong. Most people have been very complimentary about the way he’s played.

‘I’m a little upset for Tom, but sometimes it’s a case of, “Last man in, first man out”, when they’ve looked to make changes, which I can understand.’

Thus, Baxter tactfully questioned England’s selection and bolstered Johnson’s self-esteem. Expect the flanker to respond with a storming performance against London Irish on Sunday.

The final word

To call this a big weekend for Wales would be something of an under-statement.

With the edifice of Welsh rugby seemingly on the brink of collapse, Lions coach Warren Gatland is back at the helm, with a Midas touch needed to avert a calamity against the All Blacks. Mixed messages are emerging about morale in the ranks.

Blame game: Warren Gatland said the media created a 'rift' in his squad

Blame game: Warren Gatland said the media created a 'rift' in his squad

On the one hand, the Kiwi was relaxed when naming his side and revealed that a quip to his management team at the start of the week that ‘the Messiah is back’ was met by a mocking put-down, which he took to be an encouraging sign.

Yet, on the other hand, Gatland condemned the media for supposedly creating a ‘rift’ between openside rivals Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric, while Jonathan Davies laid bare the hurt over criticism of players on Twitter.

If there is a concerted attempt to circle the wagons and create an us-against-the-world, siege mentality ahead of tomorrow’s clash with New Zealand, that could be an astute move. But if these are indications of a thin-skinned squad feeling the strain, heaven help them when Richie McCaw and Co set about them.

Alex Ferguson statue unveiling: Ruud van Nistelrooy, Eric Cantona and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer among guests

Van Nistelrooy, Cantona and Solskjaer will all return for the unveiling of Fergie's statue



00:29 GMT, 23 November 2012

Eric Cantona and Ruud van Nistelrooy will be amongst the most notable guests at the unveiling of a statue in honour of Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford on Friday.

United commissioned award-winning sculptor Philip Jackson to create the nine-foot bronze statue which will be placed outside the stand that already bears Ferguson's name.

The precise details of the statue are yet to be revealed but Ferguson recently inspected it himself and declared himself satisfied.

Ruud van Nistelrooy

Eric Cantona

Guests: Eric Cantona and Ruud van Nistelrooy will be present at the unveiling of the statue

Ready to go: The statue of Sir Alex Ferguson is set to be unveiled

Ready to go: The statue of Sir Alex Ferguson is set to be unveiled

Sir Alex Ferguson is hoisted into place

His longevity at Old Trafford is encapsulated by the guests who will be in attendance.

In addition to Cantona, who signed for
United almost 20 years ago in probably the most astute transfer of
Ferguson's 26-year reign, and Van Nistelrooy, who scored 150 goals in
five seasons but has never been back to the club since he was
sensationally jettisoned in 2006, Ferguson's first captain, Bryan
Robson, will be there, plus Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who scored that famous
injury-time match-winner in the 1999 Champions League final.

Present and correct: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be there

Present and correct: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be there

United's entire first-team squad will also be present, as will England coach and long-time Red Devil Gary Neville.

And tributes ahead of the ceremony had been pouring in.

Before it was former Prime Minister
Tony Blair, and now it is Arsene Wenger, with whom Ferguson has had so
many battles down the years.

Fergie time: The United manager has seen his side win numerous games in injury time

Fergie time: The United manager has seen his side win numerous games in injury time

The Frenchman said: 'I don't remember anybody else being at the top level for such a long time.

'In some ways it is scary because when
this guy leaves the club, no matter the quality of who comes in after
him, it will be a huge hole.

'The club will be destabilised even if
the guy who comes after him is top quality because the print of
everything, the life of everything, revolves around Ferguson so much at
Manchester United.

High praise: Arsene Wenger cannot remember another manager as good as Ferguson who has worked for that long

High praise: Arsene Wenger cannot remember another manager as good as Ferguson who has worked for that long

'He has to be immortal so the club doesn't suffer! His commitment is always there, you never feel it is weakened.

'What I admire maybe the most in him
is his forward-thinking. He is always ready to move with the times and
never speaks about what he has done before.

Trophy laden: Ferguson has led United to multiple honours during his successful reign

Trophy laden: Ferguson has led United to multiple honours during his successful reign

'He knows when to renew the team, when
you have to make changes, and that is exceptional because you can
sometimes be a little bit lazy when you have so much success.

'He's never been like that, he's always on his toes and he can renew what is needed, when it is needed.

'It is a job where you need to dedicate your life to football and Ferguson has done that and that deserves massive respect.

'He has won absolutely everything and, of course, that is something exceptional.'

Still going strong: Ferguson continues to have United challenging both domestically and in Europe

Still going strong: Ferguson continues to have United challenging both domestically and in Europe

Ferguson won the first of his 12
Premier League titles with United in 1993 and has also overseen
Champions League success twice. There have also been five FA Cup wins.

England hero David Beckham found
stardom under Ferguson and was a member of six title-winning sides
before leaving for Real Madrid in 2003.

Beckham may have had his differences
with Ferguson at times but the pair have long since been reconciled and
the respect is evident.

Beckham said: 'I think the manager has
been so successful because he's passionate about Manchester United and
he's a born winner.

'He knows how to win games, how to handle pressure and how to look after his team and his players.

'Playing under him for the years that I did, well – he was like a father figure to me.

'I moved up from London to Manchester
and he always said to me, 'If you've got any worries, come and knock on
my door – it's always open'.

'I was scared to go and knock on his
door because of who he is but he always made me feel as if I was part of
a family and that's how you feel when you're at Manchester United.'

Neville is another whom Ferguson has influenced so much.

'To be at this club for so long is staggering. You would never believe it could happen,' he said.

'I've said before, United had Sir Matt
Busby, now they've got somebody who's replicated his longevity at the
club and surpassed his success – you would just never believe it could
be achieved.

'It's really not something you can put into words, what Sir Alex Ferguson has done for the club.'

Kings of Europe: Ferguson won his second Champions League trophy in 2008

Kings of Europe: Ferguson won his second Champions League trophy in 2008

Plenty to ponder: Ferguson has faced new challenges during his reign at Old Trafford

Plenty to ponder: Ferguson has faced new challenges during his reign at Old Trafford

Premier League signs two-year deal with NBC

Premier League signs two-year deal with NBC to screen matches in America



08:00 GMT, 29 October 2012

The Premier League will change broadcast partner in the United States from next season after announcing a two-year deal with the NBC Sports Group.

The financial details of the deal were not announced in a Premier League statement which confirmed that NBC would take over the rights to televise all matches from Fox.

'The Premier League is pleased to announce that NBCUniversal via the NBC Sports Group has been awarded the live audio visual broadcast rights for all 380 Barclays Premier League matches per season for seasons 2013/14 – 2015/16 in the USA,' the statement read.

Money, money, money: Premier League football will be on show in America

Money, money, money: Premier League football will be on show in America

Good deal: Richard Scudamore

Good deal: Richard Scudamore

'The deal brings the Premier League
to one of the largest broadcasters in the world; the NBC Sports Group
already televises such major sporting events as the NFL, NHL, the Summer
and Winter Olympics, MLS, the US Open (golf) and the Ryder Cup.'

League chief executive Richard Scudamore welcomed the deal while NBC
chairman Mark Lazarus described the partnership as 'a perfect match'.

'The NBC Sports Group has an excellent track record in sports broadcasting and will showcase the Barclays Premier League to fans across the USA through its extensive network of channels and high quality production,' Scudamore said.

'We are extremely pleased that NBC has chosen to invest in the Premier League and look forward to working with them for many years to come.'

Lazarus added: 'The Barclays Premier League is the pre-eminent soccer league in the world, and is on the cusp of exponential popularity growth here in the US.

'NBCU will provide the broadest programming and promotional commitment that the league has ever experienced here in the United States. The Premier League provides NBCU with best-in-class content for 10 months of the year across our far-reaching broadcast, cable and digital platforms. This is a perfect match.'

Newcastle United to sign shirt sponsorship deal with Wonga

Newcastle to sign shirt sponsorship deal with loans company Wonga



11:16 GMT, 8 October 2012

Short-term loans company Wonga are set to become the new shirt sponsor of Newcastle United after the Magpies decided to drop Virgin Money at the end of the season.

Wonga, who has been criticised for the interest rates it charges to consumers for loans to tide them over until payday, already sponsor Scottish Premier League club Hearts and Championship side Blackpool.

The deal being negotiated is for shirt sponsorship only, rather than also including naming rights to Newcastle’s stadium, a source close to the situation said, without giving any financial details.

New deal: Newcastle are currently sponsored by Virgin Money

New deal: Newcastle are currently sponsored by Virgin Money

Fans were unhappy last year when owner Mike Ashley dropped the St James’ Park name for the club’s home ground in favour of the Sports Direct Arena, after the sports retail chain he founded, pending a permanent sponsorship deal.

The prospect of the term Wonga featuring in the club’s stadium name had prompted fresh criticism on fan forums.

Newcastle announced last week the club would end its sponsorship deal with Virgin Money at the end of the current season.

The partnership was worth only 3million a season and the club were looking for a more lucrative agreement.

Previous: Wonga currently sponsor Blackpool

Previous: Wonga currently sponsor Blackpool

Clubs are more aware of the potential of shirt sponsorship after Manchester United secured a record deal with General Motors earlier this year worth some 350m million over seven years.

A spokeswoman for Wonga declined to comment on the reported Newcastle link but said the company remained committed to working with Blackpool.

Premier League rules allow a company to sponsor the shirts of more than one club, meaning a promotion for Blackpool back to the top flight would not impede a deal with Newcastle.

Javi Martinez set to join Bayern Munich and not Manchester City

Another one gets away: City miss out on Martinez signing as defender heads to Munich



17:16 GMT, 29 August 2012

Roberto Mancini has suffered another transfer setback after top target Javi Martinez finally completed a 32million move to Bayern Munich.

Sportsmail revealed last week how a snag over how the fee should be paid had left Bayern gloomy about their chances of landing the Athletic Bilbao defender and opened the door for Manchester City.

Heading to Germany: Javi Martrinez looks set to be heading to Bayern Munich

Heading to Germany: Javi Martrinez looks set to be heading to Bayern Munich

Mancini admitted, at his press conference to preview Sunday’s game at Liverpool, that he was still interested in Martinez and ‘anything could happen’ in the remaining few days of the transfer window.

But he has seen another leading name on his summer wish list slip through the net after Bayern officials and Martinez met Spanish Federation bosses at their Madrid offices and came up with a solution to payment details.

Martinez, who can operate as a centre-back or defensive midfielder, had already agreed personal terms and passed a medical and was heading for Munich on Wednesday evening to launch his new career as a Bayern player.

Ezequiel Lavezzi snubs Chelsea and Man City, opting to join Paris Saint-Germain for 21m

Lavezzi snubs Chelsea and Man City, opting to join Paris Saint-Germain in 21m deal



15:03 GMT, 30 June 2012

Chelsea and Manchester City have missed out on Ezequiel Lavezzi after the Argentina striker opted to join newly-rich Paris Saint-Germain from Napoli.

The 27-year-old will complete a 21million move to the French capital after sealing a five-year deal worth 77,000-a-week.

Move: Lavezzi

On the move: Lavezzi

Lavezzi signed from San Lorenzo in 2007 and played a key role in helping Coppa Italia-winners Napoli re-establish themselves as a major force in Italy.

Lavezzi impressed his Premier League suitors with sterling performances in the Champions League last season.

But his agent, Alejandro Mazzoni, insists his client will be heading to France rather than England.

He said: 'We hope that the contract will be signed on Monday. There are still a few minor details to be discussed by both clubs but everything should be ready by Monday or Tuesday.

'It’s difficult for Lavezzi to say goodbye to Napoli and once the deal
will be completed, he will explain his decision to leave.'

Euro 2012: England"s security blunder as key tactics passed to rivals by spy

Revealed: England's security blunder as key tactics passed to rivals by spy



22:23 GMT, 16 June 2012

Giving the game away: Roy Hodgson was apparently spied upon

Giving the game away: Roy Hodgson was apparently spied upon

England will make an urgent security review of their pre-match preparations at Euro 2012 after a simple blunder involving a curtain almost led to curtains for Roy Hodgson's European Championship hopes.

A Swedish journalist revealed that he was able to spy on England's pre-match tactical team talk before England faced Sweden on Friday – and then pass secret details to the Swedish FA before the kick-off in Kiev.

The Swedes had advance knowledge of
England's tactics and Hodgson's plan to start the crucial group game
with Andy Carroll, a ploy designed to exploit Sweden's weakness against

They also knew that England would not begin with 18-year-old winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

The Scandinavian snooper who broke
the news to his compatriots was able to do so because someone in the
England camp had simply forgotten to draw a blind across a window.

Ola Billger, of the Svenska Dagbladet
newspaper, was working in his room on the fourth floor of Kiev's Opera
Hotel when he realised that his window overlooked a skylight to a
third-floor meeting room where England manager Hodsgon was giving his
tactical talk.

'I grabbed my binoculars and along
with a colleague we were able to watch for about 40 minutes through the
skylight,' Billger told The Mail on Sunday.

'We were not able to hear anything
but it was clear England were talking about how to run through the
Swedish defence and how Sweden would attack through corners.

'It was also clear through videos and the tactics board what the lineup would be, with Carroll starting and Oxlade-Chamberlain not.'

Before the tactical session was over, a member of the hotel staff pulled a drape across the skylight to close off access to the 'spies'.

Billger added: 'I don't know if it was because they realised we'd been watching. But we had a great story for our paper and, of course, we called the Swedish FA for a comment and shared what we'd found.'

Billger says that the Swedish FA's tactical director, former international Reine Almqvist, was 'very pleased to hear the information, especially about the line-up'.

Head for heights: Carroll powered home to give England the lead

Head for heights: Carroll powered home to give England the lead

Carroll opened the scoring with a brilliant header but the Swedes then used the tactical insights supplied by Billger to go 2-1 up and threaten England's European Championship progress.

Adrian Bevington, managing director of Club England at the FA, said that there was 'no evidence whatsoever' of spying by anyone linked directly to the Sweden team.

He added: 'We're very relaxed about what happened and very pleased with the result we got in the match

'I can't say it's something that's causing us great consternation in the England camp.

'It certainly wasn't a security breach and it didn't affect the result thankfully.'

Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic claims England were fortunate to emerge victorious in Kiev.

Cruel result: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (right) said Sweden were the better team

Cruel result: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (right) said Sweden were the better team

'I think we were the better team against England. I really do,' said the AC Milan star.

'We should be proud of ourselves because we played a good game. We showed courage and were much better in dead-ball situations.'

Midfielder Sebastian Larsson agreed. 'We were definitely better than England. Their equaliser (by Theo Walcott) happens one time in a thousand. It was a shot I should have covered but it hit me and deflected past the goalkeeper.'

Caster Semenya finally able to focus on Olympic gold

Semenya finally able to focus on Olympic gold after three-year nightmare



09:47 GMT, 30 May 2012

Embarrassing: Caster Semenya had to prove she was female

Embarrassing: Caster Semenya had to prove she was female

Seeing her most intimate details
reported and debated in the global media robbed Caster Semenya of the
chance to really celebrate winning her first world championship at the
age of 18.

After claiming the world 800-meter
title in a stunningly fast time at her first major international meet in
2009, she was subjected to invasive and embarrassing gender tests
because of her muscular build and rapid improvement in times.

The teenage girl from a tiny village
in rural northern South Africa recoiled amid the testing and the
resultant whirlwind of speculation over whether or not she was female.
The turmoil easily could have killed her resolve, and forced her into
premature retirement.

Caster Semenya is running again and, for her, that's what matters most.
After all the public scrutiny, an 11-month IAAF-enforced break from
competition, niggling injury and a dip in form, worries if she could
afford to keep competing and a split with her former coach, Semenya is
back on track for her original goals, winning races and medals. Now for
her first Olympics.

just 21, and already with a gold and a silver from the last two world
championships, Semenya heads into the London Games as one of South
Africa's best medal chances.

'The plan is to win the Olympics, that's all,' Semenya said immediately after qualifying for London. 'I have to win a gold, that's what I want. The Olympics is a big step. Everybody wants to win the Olympics.'

She believes she's on course to achieve a rare world and Olympic double in London. And with former world and Olympic 800 champion Maria Mutola as her coach, Semenya has an ideal mentor.

There remain unseen scars from her
earlier ordeal. Semenya still comes with a brooding distrust of the
media – understandable considering the rampant public debate over
something as intimately personal as her gender. It led to some unsavory

She rarely gives interviews. Perhaps no other athlete wants as much to let their running do the talking.

Golden moment: Semenya celebrates after winning the 800m at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin

Golden moment: Semenya celebrates after winning the 800m at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin

'I feel comfortable … running is what I always wanted to do. Every day. So, yes, I think I'm OK. I'm coping,' she said, avoiding referring directly to past controversies as a group of reporters crowded around her after a race at the University of Pretoria eager to get some rare public comments.

'I feel OK because I'm able to run good races again, faster. Qualifying for the Olympics is a step forward. Everything is OK. I feel OK. I'm very happy.'

Semenya's rise to international attention began the month before the 2009 world championships in Berlin.

She announced herself at the African Junior Championships by winning the 800m in a national record 1 minute, 56.72 seconds – her first recorded time under the two-minute barrier.

The time was the best in the world to
that point of the year and quickly raised the interest of the IAAF.
Overall, she had carved around seven seconds off her personal best in
less than a year.

18-year-old Semenya is guaranteed special attention at the World
Championships in Berlin,' a glowing IAAF report noted at the time. The
writer couldn't have been more correct, but for another reason.

Three weeks later, and apparently just
hours after undergoing gender tests, Semenya clocked 1:55.45 to win the
world championships final. She dominated the race completely despite her
inexperience, leaving the world's best women in her wake. The
speculation started immediately.

Caster Semenya of South Africa

Caster Semenya of South Africa

Her closely cropped hair and her clenched-fists celebration, with shoulder and biceps muscles bulging, sent the rumor mill into overdrive as news of the gender tests leaked. The words intersex and hermaphrodite emerged in the coverage as Semenya's story hit front pages.

She was sidelined from competition while the IAAF examined results of her tests and even prevented from competing by officials after turning up at a meet in Stellenbosch, in southwestern South Africa. Her frustration was evident.

'I have been subjected to unwarranted and invasive scrutiny of the most intimate and private details of my being,' Semenya said in comments released by her legal advisers at the time, adding she had 'begrudgingly' submitted to the IAAF's 'process' despite reservations about its 'correctness and moral integrity.'

While it was suggested that a natural condition that produced excess testosterone contributed to Semenya's dominant win over more experienced runners and gave her an advantage over other female athletes, the IAAF didn't release any details of the investigation that eventually cleared her to return in July 2010.

The IAAF said Semenya's case was and would remain confidential, but the sport's governing body did confirm that a panel of medical experts had determined she could compete as a woman.

It's believed her case was one of the reasons why the IAAF introduced new regulations last year to deal with female athletes who produce higher than usual levels of testosterone – and so are able to build more muscle and have better endurance.

However, importantly for Semenya's Olympic hopes and her competitive future, her raw potential was again in evidence at last year's world championships at Daegu, South Korea.

With no doubts over her eligibility, she finished second to Russia's Mariya Savinova in 1:56.35 after a year in which she barely trained because of a lower back injury and fell out with former coach Michael Seme. Semenya said she prepared on her own for a month leading up to the worlds – and yet still nearly retained her title.

What's possible, then, in a year with none of the distractions that have characterized her short career so far

Even before she took over as her coach, Mutola said she had 'no doubt' that Semenya could break Jarmila Kratochvilova's near 30-year-old world 800m record of 1:53.28.

For the former runner from Mozambique, who has a similarly humble southern African background to Semenya, her 21-year-old prodigy is yet to come anywhere near realising her full potential.

'I think she probably scared a lot of people with the 1 minute, 55 seconds at the world championships at the age of 18,' Mutola said. 'That was amazing.'

Semenya describes her new coach as 'very strict' and something of a taskmaster who 'wants times.' But it's clear the relationship is good and Semenya is happy now to be focusing only on athletics. There were smiles, hugs and high-fives between the pair when Semenya qualified for the Olympics with her 1:59.58 in Pretoria on April 20.

'Finally!' Mutola said, teasing Semenya on her slow start to the season. But Mutola also expects more in London.

'She is a great young athlete and already] she has done very well, (but) we have still a long road to go,' Mutola said. 'Caster just needs to take the last steps to be a professional athlete. I want to use all my experience to help her to understand what it means to be on the top.'

In many ways, 2012 is the first 'normal' year of Caster Semenya's drama-filled senior athletics career. The first year when it's just about running – all she's ever really wanted to do.

It's just taken three turbulent years to get there.