‘Whatever the world throws at Caster, she has our support’

2012-08-08 07:04

SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) president Gideon Sam said everything was “under control” ahead of Caster Semenya’s debut at the Olympic Games this morning.

Semenya, who was the subject of a gender verification row at her maiden appearance on the international stage at the IAAF World Championships in Germany in 2009, will line up in the opening heat of the Olympics’ 800m first round at 12.35pm SA time today.

After her race, the 21-year-old will walk back into the Olympic Stadium tunnel to face a large contingent of international media hoping to interview her.

Semenya has kept a low profile since her last public appearance in London as Team South Africa’s flagbearer during the Games’ opening ceremony a fortnight ago.

Prior to the start of the quadrennial event, rights group LGBT voiced its dissatisfaction with the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) controversial gender-testing regulations that require female athletes who are suspected of having high levels of natural testosterone to undergo sex verification procedures.

LGBT is the voice of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people in the UK.

Said Sam: “It is a very difficult subject because we’re talking about the medical condition of a person. My comfort is that she is in safe hands. We have a medical team that has Dr Phatho Cele who is working very close with her (Caster).

“We understand that everything that IAAF had wanted from us has been done. As far as IOC is concerned they have also satisfied themselves with everything. It is left for us to ensure that we continue to support Caster.”

He could not elaborate further and the IOC did not respond to City Press’ request for comment.

However, Sam warned that “there will always be psychological attacks” because of the competitive nature of big events such as the Olympics.

“From our side we are ready to defend her and not that there is something we have heard – anything is possible with the Olympics of this nature.

“Our girl has been through it before and she knows she has our backing. Whatever the world will throw at her, she has our support. Hopefully she will run the hell out of them,” said Sam.

Semenya arrived in London with a season best 1:58.59 – achieved in Pretoria in April.

If successful, Semenya will race in the semifinals on Thursday at 8.30pm SA time.

The world first took notice of the Limpopo-born runner because of earth-shattering performances during the African junior championships in Mauritius in 2008, just a few months prior to her debut in the senior world championships.

She was just 17 when she became the world champion four years ago.

The gender row that followed caused the disbandment of the Athletics South Africa leadership under Leonard Chuene.

In London, Semenya will enjoy support from her mom, Dorcas, who will be watching her for the first time on the international stage.

» Follow us on Twitter: @DanieMothowagae and @City_Press

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