#HandsOffCaster: South Africans spring to defence of the athletic superstar

Go girl! Middle-distance runner Caster Semenya has South Africa's support and admiration despite mainstream western media whipping up controversy around her. (AFP).

Go girl! Middle-distance runner Caster Semenya has South Africa's support and admiration despite mainstream western media whipping up controversy around her. (AFP).

Star middle-distance runner Caster Semenya was at the top of Twitter’s trends list on Saturday, just days ahead of her 800m event at the Rio Olympic Games. The athlete’s woes began in 2009 when she was banned from competing after she won the 800m championship in Berlin.

Sports Illustrated caused a furore with an article entitled “Is it fair for Caster Semenya to compete against women at Rio?” which was published on Thursday. Many felt the article’s headline sought to ridicule Semenya and insinuated that she should compete against men.

A discussion between journalists Malcolm Gladwell and Nicholas Thompson published in The New Yorker on Friday was also met with indignation.

When asked by Thompson whether he felt Semenya should be “allowed to compete as a woman”, Gladwell replied: “of course not”, adding that no track and field fan would disagree with him on that.

“People need to understand that an athletic competition has to have rules; otherwise there can be no competition,” Gladwell said.

South Africans have pinned their hopes of the country getting Olympic gold on Semenya and wasted no time in declaring their unconditional support for the athlete. 

A while back, though, this support was seemingly not widespread and the runner was often the subject of ridicule. Some had even conceded South Africa had previously not done enough to defend her. 

Ofentse Mboweni

Ofentse Mboweni

Ofentse Mboweni is the communications officer at Grow Great. He holds an honours degree in Political Studies from Wits Read more from Ofentse Mboweni

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