Poverty and prejudice
HOW SAD that the achievements of Caster Semenya have been overshad- owed by the row over her gender. She overcame poverty and prejudice when she won the women’s 800m gold medal in Berlin on Wednesday, and deserves great credit for that.
Instead she is being exposed to public ridicule from some of Europe’s more excitable media and bitter opponents. Italian athlete Elisa Piccione – smarting after being left in Semenya’s wake – blunt- ly dismissed her as a man in a women’s race.
Anybody with a grain of compassion will surely feel for this young woman: newspaper reports on her family show she grew up in tough circumstances, ones far removed from those of most of her pampered competitors.
Because of her physique, she has been the victim of prejudice for much of her life. A former school principal described how Semenya was sometimes challenged at athletics meetings and would be re- quired to prove she was a woman.
In the light of this history, questions need to be asked about how her mentors and Athletics South Africa allowed this debacle to evolve. Surely they could have anticipated the reaction and taken precautions?
The International Association of Athletics Fed-
erations might also want to contemplate its role in this affair. The timing of its announcement that Semenya was being gender tested was astonishingly insensitive and, predictably, gave rise to speculation that it was designed to put Semenya off her stride.
Now is the time for ordinary South Africans to repair the damage and warmly welcome her back to the country. Some politicians have suggested they are going to be at the airport when she flies home, but it would surely help ease her pain more if their self-serving voices were drowned out by the
heartfelt support of her countrymen and women.