This Women's Month we get a glimpse of the makings of world athletics champion, Caster Semenya. Based on her life, it's clear the star has a lot to share about creating a successful life.
She spoke candidly about her struggles and learning to be fearless at a young age at the Standard Bank Top Women Conference held at Emperor’s Palace in Kempton Park today. She also spoke exclusively to W24 about the two women who are dearest to her heart.
Whenever she is confronted with intimidating situations, she chooses to be fearless. She owns her power and points to the three attributes that have propelled her to becoming an icon.
“I’m tough, I’m fearless and I don’t care what other people think of me,” she says.
From a young age running was a top priority for her even though her parents hoped she would become a soccer star. She swapped her soccer boots for running shoes and has worked hard at reaching her goals ever since.
“Running fast doesn’t come from genetics, it comes from working hard,” the champion says, adding that her training regime is second to none.
She was subjected to scrutiny and recently the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) succeeded in its bid to compel "hyperandrogenic" athletes - or those with "differences of sexual development" (DSD) - to artificially lower their testosterone levels – Caster falls under this category.
But the world champion has always refused to bow to these demands, saying she will not be subjected to discriminatory rules. She sees the experience as a learning curve.
“When you are the best in the world, people get obsessed with what you do… I might be stopped from running now, but it’s just a temporary situation,” she says with conviction.
She has always been ‘surrounded by male dominance’, but has often told her coach, “Whoever wants to stop me from running has to drag me from the track”.
Fear is what drives criticism, she says. Speaking of the treatment she’s received from her detractors over the years she says, “They were scared because I could do things that they couldn’t do.”
Whenever a woman is great, there are always justifications for her excellence, however, Caster has learnt that she doesn’t need to respond or justify who she is to her detractors. “I’m the architect of my career, an engineer of what I do,” she says.
She’s authentic and wants nothing more than to show other young people that they too can be the Casters of tomorrow.
“As a human being you need to study yourself, no one should tell you how you should live your life. If you do that, it will be very easy to conquer the world,” Caster says.
A co-owner of Princess D Menstrual Cups, the star says by being part of the business she’s come to the realisation that it is important to support young women, particularly in rural areas.
The menstrual cups help young girls stay in school because they only need to be changed after several hours and last for several years so they can be used over numerous menstrual cycles.
“I wanted to learn about this product and realised that this is a product that can change lives,” she says.
Caster is passionate about the wellbeing of young girls and believes they should be brought up to have self-belief, passion and self-respect. “Be willing to learn every day, forgive and forget, and you will conquer the world,” the champion says.
Speaking about how she gets through her tough days, she admits to emotional strain, like all other human beings, but she has learnt to control her emotions and is in fact very happy.
“Of cause, I get hurt, but it’s only for two seconds. I am not bitter,” she says. She always taps into her fearless nature and pushes forward.
“For me to be able to control everything around me, I have to control myself. I cannot respond to mediocrity. I’ve learnt to treat people with respect, even when they are negative towards me,” she says, crediting the love that she gets from her family as one of the major fuels of her strength.
There are two women who play a pivotal role in her life:
Her mother Dorcas Semenya taught her everything she knows about self-love and discipline.
“My mother never questioned my decisions; her main goal was always to keep me happy. She taught me all about respect for yourself and your elders. My mom knows what kind of person I am and what I like, and she’s never made me feel like I am not loved – that’s one of the biggest gifts that a mother can give to her children,” she says.
Her partner, Violet Raseboya, is Caster's biggest cheerleader.
“This is one person who never lets me down or questions me about my goals and dreams. It is because of this that I know that I am always protected. Even when she is not entirely sure that what I am coming to her with will work, she still supports me and encourages me to go ahead with whatever I have in mind,” she says.
It doesn’t end there; Caster is also inspired by all the brave women in the world who always go for their goals.
“I’m so inspired by these women who always live their truth and do what feels right to them regardless of what anyone else thinks.”
It's hard to believe that this world champion is so humble and is inspired by you and me in our moments of bravery. That, right there, just made us love Caster even more than we did before - her humble spirit is admirable.