Caster continues to reaffirm her role as one of our land’s most inspiring females
I’VE come face to face with bravery, I’ve seen it in action, I’ve seen it almost every year since April 2012.
Her bravery first came to the fore as a storm erupted eight years ago, when the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) asked Caster Semenya to undergo a gender “test” just days before the women’s 800m final, at the world championships in Berlin, in 2009.
It is funny that, almost a decade after Semenya was dissected and placed under the prying eyes of the international media, she still has to answer questions that are nobody’s business.
Dignified in her answers whenever the topic surfaces, Semenya was hardly afforded the same dignity, when her medical records were leaked to the media.
While the whole world discussed and debated every detail of what was supposed to have been confidential, the people that were supposed to protect her remain anonymous.
As much as Semenya tries to mind her own business, the issue always seems to surface before major championships.
She has successfully navi- gated past the London 2012 Games, walking away with the silver with the issue seemingly fading away, halfway into the next Olympic cycle.
Enter the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) ruling that testing on female athletes taking testosterone suppressants be suspended, after Indian sprinter, Dutee Chand’s successful appeal of her ban from competition in July 2015.
The CAS ruled the IAAF needed to provide scientific evidence that enhanced testosterone levels translated into improved performances in hyperandrogenic athletes.
After winning her maiden gold medal at the Rio Olympic Games, Semenya again had to put up a brave face as she fielded questions.
Asked whether Semenya and her fellow medallists Margaret Wambui and Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba were taking any medication to lower testosterone levels, the South African gave a stern answer.
“Excuse me my friend, tonight is all about performance, we are not here to talk about the IAAF and some speculations,” Semenya said.
“Tonight is all about performances and this press conference is about the 800m that we ran today, so thank you.”
Shortly before these world championships in the English capital, the IAAF published its research in support of its suspended hyperandrogenism regulations.
Semenya was again asked about the possibility of CAS ruling in favour of the IAAF and what it would mean for her going forward.
Again showing her bravery and restraint, Semenya firmly made the point that the IAAF’s bid to reinstate its regulations had nothing to do with her.
“I have no time for nonsense, so medication, no medication,” Semenya said.
“Look, I’m an athlete, I don’t have time for such things. You understand?”
“It is their own decision, my focus is now for me to get healthy and compete. I really don’t have time for nonsense.”
Semenya has certainly come full circle and, in the week the world was celebrat- ing International Women’s Day, she reaffirmed her role as one of the country’s most inspiring female figures.
The South African icon has, time and time again, demonstrated her fearless nature when the world seems to be against her.
The educated and passionate athletic crowd at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Stadium have shown Semenya the respect she so richly deserves.
While much of the attention ahead of the championships was focussed on her male compatriot, Wayde van Niekerk’s double attempt, Semenya quietly went about her business racing both the 800m and 1 500m.
With the 1 500m already in the bag, Semenya is on the cusp of winning her second world 800m gold medal, which would further cement her place as one of the world’s greats.
And while she juggles the pressures of racing at the championships, Semenya has to find time for her assignments as part of her studies.
She is likely to line up in Sunday’s final and, while she may be the topic of conversation for other reasons, Semenya will continue to brush it off.