South Africa’s Caster Semenya dedicated her 800-metre gold at the Commonwealth Games to the rural youth of Africa on Friday, writes MARK ETHERIDGE on the Gold Coast, Australia.
If ever there was a golden banker for Team South Africa at these Games, it was going to be the double Olympic 800m and reigning world champion.
She led from start to finish before wiping out the 16-year-old Commonwealth record of Seychelles athlete Joanna Houareau.
That mark of 1min 57.35sec was set in Manchester, England back in 2002 and Caster clipped 0.67sec off that mark with her victory in 1:56.68.
Runner-up was Kenya’s Margaret Wambui, a long way back in 1:58.07.
In third place was Natoya Goule, the tiny Jamaican who ran a personal best of 1:58.82.
‘You know, sometimes when you are winning all the time you run out of emotions,’ said Semenya. ‘So this win is actually not about me but it’s for all the African girls coming from the rural areas who don’t believe this is possible.
‘But anything is possible… I want this to inspire them and let them believe in themselves.’
Particularly hard-hitting words as Semenya herself comes from the dirt-poor rural communities in Limpopo province.
‘Obviously, I’d like to do this 800/1500m double at the next world championships and Olympics and I’ll probably be more emotional then but this is like a ladder, another step upwards.’
Going back to her roots she said: ‘People can see on my social media the work I’m doing. When I go back they know what I’m doing.
‘It’s very important to wake up, make your bed, face the world and work hard so that people take you seriously. And you also have to love yourself. Learn to love yourself, that’s very important.’
One thing’s for sure… after her golden double on the Gold Coast, it will be hard for South Africa, both rural and suburban, to love her any more!
Her gold medal boosted Team South Africa’s tally to 35 – 13 gold, 10 silver and 12 bronze, just five short of their tally in Glasgow, Scotland four years ago and with two days of competition still to run.
Photo: Semenya showing off the South African flag after victory, by Wessel Oosthuizen/SASPA