Cel­e­brate black sportswomen’s feats

The Star Early Edition - - LETTERS - Ch­eryl Roberts

WE must not be shy to ap­plaud and cel­e­brate the global feats and tri­umphs of South Africa’s black sportswomen Caster Se­menya and Zanele Situ. We are see­ing amaz­ing achieve­ments by these black women: world ac­com­plish­ments not eas­ily at­tain­able are be­ing achieved by Se­menya and Situ.

It’s not like South Africa has a con­veyor belt of young, black fe­male ath­let­ics tal­ent. Yes, we have black girls par­tic­i­pat­ing in sport. How­ever, they are largely miss­ing when it comes to in­ter­na­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion. How much longer will we wait be­fore we again see the spec­tac­u­lar ath­leti­cism of Se­menya and Situ ex­hib­ited by an emerg­ing gen­er­a­tion of black girl ath­letes?

Given that there are no world-class ju­nior black girl ath­letes emerg­ing in South Africa on the level of Situ and Se­menya, we must revel in their achieve­ments. This is their mo­ment. We might never again see such amaz­ing sports feats be­ing achieved by black South African sportswomen.

In a so­ci­ety of abun­dant sports tal­ent and plen­ti­ful fund­ing, lo­cated largely in elite male-dom­i­nated sports, black sportswomen strug­gle, not only to be­come pro­fes­sional, but also just to get out of the start­ing blocks en route to in­ter­na­tional par­tic­i­pa­tion.

In a sports par­a­digm sat­u­rated with male sports prow­ess, black sportswomen achiev­ing suc­cess at in­ter­na­tional level are few and far be­tween, but they are out there. That they ex­ist and have achieved on the in­ter­na­tional sports stage is re­mark­able, given the adverse con­di­tions most black girls and women have to con­tend with.

When you’re a black woman in sport, ne­go­ti­at­ing your way into the in­ter­na­tional arena is of­ten lit­tered with set­backs, dis­ap­point­ments and fund­ing is­sues. For black women, the strug­gle is that much worse.

And, amid the strug­gles per­tain­ing to be­ing black and non-able bod­ied, have emerged some amaz­ing world­class black sportswomen – the likes of Se­menya and Situ. Situ is a Par­a­lympic javelin cham­pion and Se­menya an 800m Olympic cham­pion. These are not easy feats.

These sports achieve­ments are also much ap­pre­ci­ated and re­spected when one recog­nises how harsh so­ci­ety is on black women. But these global sports tri­umphs have been at­tained by Se­menya and Situ, who con­tinue to demon­strate that black girls can de­velop into suc­cess­ful sportswomen.

You see, in South Africa, where men get most sports me­dia cov­er­age, money, recog­ni­tion and ad­mi­ra­tion, the sports feats of black women like Se­menya and Situ give us much to cel­e­brate. I want to en­joy and cel­e­brate ev­ery mo­ment of their fab­u­lous sports feats. I want to share in their emo­tions when their world-class re­sults are miss­ing in the me­dia, when they are in­jured, and when the strug­gle feels harder than usual. So when black sportswomen tri­umph in­ter­na­tion­ally, I never want to stop cel­e­brat­ing. Be­cause I know that I’m ex­pe­ri­enc­ing amaz­ing sports feats.

Black women strug­gle just to get out of the start­ing blocks

Cape Town

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