By Mark Etheridge
Flag bearer Caster Semenya sent Team South Africa off to battle at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia in a confident frame of mind.
Named as flagbearer for the official ceremony on 4 April at Monday night’s farewell dinner in Johannesburg, Semenya soared on a wave of positivity.
SASCOC President Gideon Sam announced double Olympic 800-metre gold medallist Semenya as the official flag bearer.
’There are many luminaries in this team but the board of SASCOC have decided that Caster will fly the flag for SA.’
For her part, Semenya was brief but buoyant.
‘I’m truly honoured and truly blessed. We lead by example… two golds for me!’
Semenya was referring to Sam’s look ahead to possible medals coming South Africa’s way as he urged the team to improve on their seventh-place showing on the medals table at the last Games in Glasgow, Scotland four years ago.
Semenya is entered in the 800 and 1500m track events.
‘We fell from fifth in New Delhi, India in 2010 to seventh at Glasgow and we have to make a top five place our goal this time out,’ said Sam.
In Glasgow, South Africa won 40 medals.
‘I’m proud to say we have delivered a team early, which was not easy but we took a decision to put our athletes at the centre of everything.’
As he has previously done, Sam paid thanks to the parents of each and every team member selected.
‘They deserve a special thanks. In many cases, they have bonded and re-bonded their houses in support of your children. It’s you have made South Africa sport.’
Also present was newly elected Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa.
In her address, she added her full support for the team.
‘It takes years of discipline and sacrifice to get here. Every athlete selected bears hero status just by being in the team and that is double when they win a medal. Anything is possible, given the opportunity.’
Sam also urged athletes to be on their best behaviour at the Games as they represented the rainbow nation, saying any member of the team breaking rules and regulations faced the risk of being sent home early.
‘Respect the flag at all times. At the same time, got to the Games but don’t play games.’
Team South Africa will head off east on Tuesday although some codes are already in Gold Coast and others will arrive during the Games. The Games will start on 4 April and end on 15 April.
Picture of 1996 Atlanta Olympics marathon winner Josiah Thungwana, flagbearer Caster Semenya and Pieter Badenhorst (1992 Paralympic gold and silver medallist and employee of sponsors Toyota SA ) courtesy of Wessel Oosthuizen