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Martha Saavedra
University of California - Berkeley

Since 1993, Martha Saavedra has been the Associate Director of the Center for African Studies (, at the University of California, Berkeley. With a doctorate in Political Science from Berkeley, her research has included agrarian politics and ethnic conflict in Sudan, and gender and sports in Senegal, Kenya and elsewhere in Africa. She has taught at St. Mary’s College of California, UC Berkeley and Ohio University. Her publications include articles and chapters on various aspects of gender and sport, and ethnic politics in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. With Michael Kevane of Santa Clara University, she is co-coordinating, a web portal providing teaching and research resources. She also is researching and writing on the question of sport and development in Africa. She is on the editorial boards of Soccer and Society; Sport in Society; and The Interdisciplinary Journal of Sports in Africa. A veteran of Title IX battles, she has played soccer for 30 years and is now coaching her sons.

The significance of 800 meters and African female athletes

This presentation will provide an overview of the experience of African women internationally in the 800 meter race in track and field. Africa women have made their mark on the 800 meters, an event requiring both speed and endurance. In 2008, Maria Mutola retired after nearly two decades of dominating the race in a way achieved by few other athletes. That same year, indeed in Mutola's final race, Pamela Jelimo of Kenya came closest to the nearly unbreakable 1983 world record of Jarmila Kratochv??lov?­ of Czechoslovakia. Mutola and Jelimo are two of only three athletes to have won outright the IAAF $1 million Golden League jackpot. Caster Semanya was poised to join their ranks in 2009 by setting the best mark that year and by winning at the World Championships in Berlin in September. Only her feat was quickly overshadowed by the controversy over her biology. This presentation will provide background context on the event itself and the progression of African female athletes in it.

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