100 World Class South Africans: Caster Semenya

2013-07-26 12:00

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Grace under fire

Let’s face it: most champions have a genetic advantage – from height or superior lung function to, yes, even good hormones.

But it’s clear – from what Caster Semenya has said in rare interviews – that she puts her results down to hard work, tactics and self-belief.

In the Observer in 2011, she said her parents ‘always told me to believe in myself; that’s what I’m doing now.’

Semenya’s meteoric rise went almost unnoticed until she won the 800m at the 2009 IAAF World Championships in a time of 1.55.45 (a huge two-second margin).

It quickly turned into a personal and very public nightmare: suspicions of doping, a sex verification debacle and suspension for a year.

But Semenya returned in fighting good form in her debut Olympics, London 2012, where she won silver.

She is SA’s first female sprinter of world standard.

She is also one of 50 People That Matter, according to the UK’s New Statesman, for ‘unintentionally instigating an international and often ill-tempered debate on gender politics, feminism and race, becoming an inspiration to gender campaigners around the world.’

Her case has forced us to take a closer look at our shallow prejudices and preconceptions – and those who continue to make jokes about her can eat her dust.

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