All black, all gold – Caster’s our girl

2009-08-22 11:06

TAKE a look at the shoes Caster Semenya wore when she struck gold

in Berlin this week.

Nikes with a pink swoosh. Now what further proof could possibly be

needed of her ­gender? Never mind her deep voice and rippling muscles that even

Michelle Obama would die for?– the answer to her ­gender lies in the


All girls know that pink is the new black this season.

This is a light-hearted ­moment in a heavy week. We salute Caster

and her gold ­medal.

She ran like a lightning bolt, beating her own best time and making

us all proud.

Caster deserves a ticker tape parade when she touches down from

Berlin next week.

She deserves it not only for her win, but for the tenacity and

inner strength she ­displayed when she raced on Wednesday night.

The rumours of sex testing started on Wednesday morning as

chat-rooms blazed. Look at her physique! Listen to her voice! Black women can’t

run?... that fast!

The news of verification tests ordered by the International

Athletics Federation (IAAF) had been leaked and as she was about to limber up to

the starting blocks, the rumours were confirmed.

A lesser sportsperson would have been rattled. Just look at how the

booing got to Kaizer Motaung junior.

But Caster ran and until it’s proved otherwise, she is our

all-black, all-gold girl.

Sex verification is as old as competitive sports itself. Over time,

men have tried to pass themselves off as women ­because stakes are high in

­global sports.

And so verification, like dope testing, is common and done by a set

of protocols. All the protocols designed to protect dignity and ensure

confidentiality ­appear to have been ignored with Semenya. Very bad form on the

part of the IAAF.

Athletics South Africa is ­also not clear on what its own

responsibilities to Semenya were when the sex verification questions first


Should it have done the tests so that she was not humiliated in


This week Caster was treated like Saartjie Baartman was: an oddity

from Africa, a freak to be poked and spoken about, not spoken to.

It’s wrong to poke about in ­Semenya’s sexual orientation, her

voice or her past; to make deductions either way.

She identifies herself as a woman. Her family believes her to be

their daughter, granddaughter, sister ... and that’s what she is; for gender is

a ­social construct.

The exhaustive testing she has gone through will shed ­clarity on

her sex – as in biological makeup – and the various factors that determine

whether we are male or female.

This week her win must be celebrated, for it marked a ­moment of

sporting and ­personal achievement and spoke of a South African of enormous

inner strength and courage.

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