This a story of misfortune turning to fortune. Caster Semenya would just have been another medallist at the just concluded 12th IAAF World Championship in Berlin, Germany, but for the gender row.
Thanks to the row, Semanya is not only etched in our memory forever; her road to fortune begins when she arrives South Africa this week from Berlin.
South African people and government are planning a heroine’s welcome when she comes home this week. Home Affairs Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, has said of the 800-metre gold medallist whose boyish looks led to the test following her impressive performance at the world championships in
“Caster deserves our support as a nation against the onslaught being waged against her,” Dlamini Zuma said in a statement.
“To us Caster is simply the best 800-metre woman World Champion and must be given a heroine’s welcome upon [her] return to South Africa Tuesday,” the minister said.
The gender-testing debate has sparked outrage in the 18-year-old’s home country, with the ruling party and its youth and women’s wings saying the test smacked of racism and sexism.
Made South Africa proud
Dlamini Zuma said that despite the doubts expressed about Semenya’s gender, she had made her country proud.
“Accordingly, all of us as South Africans, especially women, must rally around Caster and reject with the contempt it deserves the insinuations being made about her gender.”
African National Congress youth league spokesman Floyd Shivambu told AFP that the group was organising a massive welcome home with the women’s league, student organisations and other formations at the airport on Tuesday.
“We will be going there to welcome her. There are going to be mobs of people at the airport,” he said, refusing to give more details on the plans. “If we speak about it to the public it is not going to be a surprise.”
IAAF denounced ANC youth league leader, Julius Malema, has denounced the decision by the International
Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the sport’s governing body, to test Semenya’ gender as “racist and sexist”.
Malema said Semenya was being tested because she was black and had surpassed her European competitors, according to the Sunday Independent.
Her father, Jacob Semenya, told the newspaper he felt physically sick at the allegations, admitting his daughter had always dressed like a boy and “if you speak to her on the phone you might mistake her for a man.”
“But I used to change her nappy, and I know she is a woman. What better proof do you need?”
A devastated Semenya nearly boycotted the awards ceremony after she won the 800-metre race on Wednesday in 1 minute 55.45 seconds—the best time in the world this year—beating her closest competitors by a huge two-and-a-half seconds.
The teenager from a rural village in the impoverished Limpopo province in northern South Africa was hesitant to take to the podium.
“She is not rejoicing. She (didn’t) want the medal,” Athletics South Africa president Leonard Chuene said last week.
The furor has sparked debates over often grey areas of gender, chromosomes and hormones, and what makes a woman a woman, in a row that has overshadowed one of the best performances by a South African athlete in recent years.
Semenya underwent tests by an endocrinologist, gynaecologist, psychologist and other experts and the results are expected to take weeks.
The IAAF has stated it is unlikely she will be stripped of her title if she fails the test. Semenya was one of only two gold medallists for South Africa, the other coming in the men’s 800-metre event, which was won by 28-year-old
Mbulaeni Mulaudzi. He hails from the same region, Limpopo.