All the 800m medal-winners from Rio 2016 - (left to right) Francine Niyonsaba, Caster Semenya and Kenya’s Margaret Wambui – were forced to change events by new limits on testosterone levels. Photo by Eric Feferberg AFP/Getty Images

Burundian President Évariste Ndayishimiye has made 2,000m world record holder Francine Niyonsaba an “extraordinary” ambassador for the East African country.
Last September Niyonsaba set a new 2,000m world record at the Continental Tour Gold meeting in Zagreb.
Her time of five minutes 21.56 seconds was two seconds faster than the record set by Genzebe Dibaba indoors in 2017.
Niyonsaba, a world and Olympic silver medal winner over 800m, is among several athletes banned from competing between 400m and 1500m because of naturally high levels of testosterone.
The 29-year-old said she has kept competing after her enforced switch to longer distances to “make sport a better place and inspire others”.
A world and Olympic silver medal winner over 800m, she was the fourth fastest women in 2021 over 5,000m.
“I have not had an easy life and I love challenges,” she said of her switch.
“I have faced it with a lot of determination and perseverance. No-one was going to help me or wanted to coach me from shorter to longer distance. No one believed in me but I believed in myself.
“I can say I come back because to make sport a better place and keep inspiring others. I am very happy.”
While Niyonsaba is one of a number of athletes who have been forced to change events by a 2019 ruling by governing body World Athletics, she has excelled over longer distances.
Her world record run, which also broke the outdoor record set by Ireland’s Sonia O’Sullivan in 1994, came a week after claiming victory over 5,000m in the Diamond League meeting in Zurich. At the Tokyo Olympics she finished fifth in the 10,000m final, but was disqualified from her 5,000m heat for a lane infringement.
Later in the summer she became the fifth-fastest woman of all time over 3,000m. The 2,000m has never been held at an Olympics or World Championships but is often featured at track and field meetings.
President Ndayishimiye did not spell out why he had conferred the honorary title on her, but the 29-year-old athlete is regarded as a hero in Burundi.
Niyonsaba has not yet commented on the announcement. –

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