Caster Semenya has won a gold medal, set a new South African record… and won the hearts of the entire world in the process!
If gold medals were awarded for resilience, faith and courage in the face of media hostility, Caster Semenya has already won all of them.
But today, the incredible athlete has proven all the critics wrong and faced adversity to win the Olympic gold medal in 800m.
Running at 9.15pm Brazilian time (2.15am SA time on Sunday), Semenya pulled off a textbook race as she went to the front almost immediately to avoid the kind of mishaps that perhaps prevented her from winning gold at the 2012 London Olympics.\
Four years ago, Semenya stayed too long at the back of the pack and had to settle for a silver even though she sprinted around most of the field in the last 100 metres.
This time around, there were no such mistakes as Semenya took the lead at stages during the first lap, although Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba was in first position at the bell in 57.59 seconds.
Semenya bided her time even as Niyonsaba opened up a bit of a gap as they moved to the 600m mark, with the South African remaining calm under pressure as Kenya’s Margaret Wambui came up on the outside.
But as they took the final bend, Semenya put the hammer down and screamed past Niyonsaba, and ran the last 100m in full cry to break her SA record of 1:55.33 with a new personal best of 1:55.28.
Semenya shouted in delighted after crossing the line, and did her trademark “Cobra” celebration before being congratulated by Niyonsaba, who took the silver in 1:56.49, while Wambui claimed the bronze in 1:56.89.
“It’s not about discriminating against people. It is not about looking at how people look, how they speak, how they run, it is not about being muscular. It is all about sport. When you walk out of your apartment you think about performing, you do not think about how your opponent looks. So I think the advice from me to everybody is just to go out there and have fun.” – Caster Semenya at winner’s press conference
It is Team South Africa’s second gold medal of the Games following Wayde van Niekerk’s world record run in the men’s 400m, and it takes the country’s total medal tally to 10.
The entire globe joined the conversation throughout the week supporting the phenomenal athlete.
— Brent Lindeque (@BrentLindeque) August 17, 2016
— Keenan Kyle Harduth (@KeenyKeenz) August 17, 2016
— Maps Maponyane (@MapsMaponyane) August 17, 2016
Her race today was for so much more than the top spot on Rio’s podium. She was carrying the colours of everyone who is different. And when we really look inwards… isn’t that all of us?
Forget about the drama, forget about the criticism!
South Africa & the world stand united, so proudly South African!
Today… we are all Team SA