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Is this runner male or female? The question sparks outrage in South Africa.

Caster Semenya has won a World Championship, but now many ask if she is really a woman.

Caster Semenya, 18, of South Africa celebrates after winning the women's 800 meter final during the world athletics championships at the Olympic stadium in Berlin on Aug. 19, 2009. Now her gender is being investigated. (Dominic Ebenbichler/Reuters)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — No sooner had Caster Semenya won the 800-meter women's race at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin, than questions were asked about whether she is female.

The International Association of Athletics Federations said it is investigating the gender of Semenya.

The IAAF warned that the investigation may take several weeks, but South Africans won't wait that long to render their verdict: For them, Semenya is undoubtedly a woman. South African newspapers have crowned her the nation's "Golden Girl."

Semenya, 18, was a virtual unknown on the international stage but she shot to prominence Wednesday by dominating the final of the 800-meter race at the World Athletics Championships. She stormed to victory in the 800-meter race with a world record time of one minute and 55.45 seconds — a massive 2.45 seconds ahead of silver medalist and defending champion Janeth Jepkosgei. Semenya's impressive time and muscular physique sparked immediate speculation over whether she was really female and brought the world athletics body, the IAAF, to launch an investigation into the star’s gender.

Semenya was banned from speaking to the media following her sensational final race. The interview above by shows Semenya speaking shortly after her victory in the semi-finals.

Semenya is described in the South African press as a powerfully built athlete with a deep voice and a preference growing up for playing soccer with boys. Her family and friends have come out strongly to defend their champion.

"She is my little girl," her father, Jacob Semenya, told The Sowetan. "I raised her and I have never doubted her gender. She is a woman and I can repeat that a million times. For the first time South Africans have someone to be proud of and detractors are already shouting wolf. It is unfair. I wish they would leave my daughter alone."

Her grandmother, Maphuthi Sekgala, said that her granddaughter had been teased for her "boyish looks" as a child but that having raised the girl herself she had no questions about her gender.

"What can I do when they call her a man, when she’s really not a man?" Sekhgala told the Times, a South African newspaper. "It is God who made her look that way."