Burundian President Évariste Ndayishimiye has appointed Francine Niyonsaba, the holder of the 2,000m world record, as an “exceptional” ambassador for the East African country.
At the Continental Tour Gold meeting in Zagreb last September, Niyonsaba set a new record of five minutes and 21.56 seconds.
Although the president did not explain why he bestowed the honorary title on her, the 29-year-old athlete is revered in Burundi.
Niyonsaba has however not commented on the announcement. She is one of several athletes who have been barred from competing between the 400m and 1,500m because of naturally high testosterone levels, according to a law passed in 2018.
Francine Niyonsaba is a Burundian runner, who specialized in the 800 metres and shifted to longer distances in 2019. She was the 2016 Rio Olympics silver medalist in the women’s 800 metres. Her silver medal was the first Olympic medal for Burundi since 1996.
She is a two-time 800m world indoor champion, having won 800m in 2016 and 2018. After her move to longer distances, Niyonsaba finished fifth over the 10,000 metres at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She holds the world record in the 2000 metres, and seven Burundian records.
In 2019, World Athletics had announced that Niyonsaba would not be allowed to compete under the female classification in events between 400 metres and one mile due to its regulations on XY DSD athletes with naturally high testosterone levels
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