Not only did Semenya win gold in the 800m race at the IAAF Championship in London on Sunday, she ran her personal best at the event. But trolls just won't let the athlete be.
Right-wing UK columnist Katie Hopkins, writing for the Mail Online, charged at Semenya - saying the Queen of Track was at an advantage because of her questionable gender, arguing that her "internal testes" gave her an unfair advantage. She had "even married her girlfriend in a traditional wedding ceremony, appearing in the guise of a man", said Hopkins.
Even some media houses, like the BBC, re-fed Hopkins' accusations, running inserts asking if Semenya "was, in fact, a he?"
The IAAF concluded in 2010 that Semenya can compete "with immediate effect." The Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) suspended a ruling by the IAAF to enforce a limit on naturally occurring levels of testosterone in female athletes.So, safe to say, the commentary leading to the race has been mean-spirited, repulsive and dare we say ignorant.
However, one has to commend the grace with which the 26-year-old champion has dealt with the drama. This was her tweet before her inspiring win:
And at a media conference held after she won bronze in the women's 1500m last week, Semenya once again proved why she is a force to be reckoned with. Her mental fortitude is inspiring. These were some of our favourite responses to questions by reporters at the conference -- who did not forget to focus on her having abnormally high levels of testosterone, called hyperandrogenism.
- "For me such allegations they're not my business... They do their job, I do my job. I have no problem with such things."
- "Those are the lyrics they've been singing since 2009, so sometimes you get annoyed or you get bored."
- "I don't work for IAAF. I'm Caster Semenya, I'm an athlete. I focus on my future."
- "My business is to train hard and see what I can come up with in competition. I'm not really interested."
- "I have no time for nonsense."
To the admiration of many South Africans:
The beauty, courage and grace of #Castersemenya in the middle of competition complexity is legendary. So inspiring.— Timothy Maurice (@timothymaurice) August 13, 2017
One day we'll truly understand how incredibly brave & courageous Caster Semenya is. And how powerful her spirit really is. ✊🏾#CasterSemenya— lloyd (@LoyaGal) August 11, 2017
"You try to give me stress...I give you a heart attack. It's a WARNING." -Caster Semenya. #CasterSemenya— Portia Gumede (@portiagumedesa) August 13, 2017
Even the ANC Women's League has come out in defense of Semenya. In a statement, the league said it has become a norm that when the athlete is competing internationally, "racist homophobes" will use the media to attack her. The league has called Semenya inspirational: "Her resilience and thirst to succeed in the midst of attacks from racists, homophobes as Hopkins, brings hope to many young women who still face discrimination due to their sexual orientation."
The Olympic champion, in a recent television interview with the BET, said she has learnt to not let people's opinions affect her.
"I know how I look like. I know how I sound. I know how I walk. I walk the talk. I'm a woman of my actions. I'm just gonna be me. I do me and you do you," she said.
All we have to say is we're so damn proud of this South African athletic gem!