The 800m World Champion runner is styled in jeans, a denim jacket and a Nike crop top under a tulle vest. The full spread, styled by ELLE fashion director Tarryn Oppel and shot by South African photographer Jodi Bieber, focuses on Semenya's athleticism with each outfit a take on athleisure, the fashion trend that looks as though you're either on your way to or from the gym.
The cover is worlds apart from the much-maligned 2009 YOU magazine cover shoot in which Semenya was given a make-over and styled as a " glamour girl". Here, she smiles confidently, looking at ease in every shot.
Fans and prominent South Africans praised the cover feature and took to social networks to support and encourage Semenya.
This slayage makes me unable to can - check out our Sportstar and People's Choice athlete of the year nominee https://t.co/fQIJHgu7xA— RSA Min of Sport (@MbalulaFikile) November 18, 2016
South Africans are particularly protective of Semenya, who has been subjected to extensive scrutiny over her gender classification. Semenya underwent sex tests and faced suspension before being allowed back onto the track to compete in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Representation matters. The ELLE cover succeeds in embracing Semenya for who she is, not a glamour girl in a dress and high heels, but a strong and successful athlete.