Caster Semenya’s sweet victory: Mokgadi takes gold

She’s done it. There was little doubt that Caster Semenya would run her way to gold in the final 800m race at the Rio Olympics, but finally she’s where she belongs.

South Africans stayed up late, glued to their television screens at 2.27am on Sunday morning, nervously watching as Semenya ran her first lap around the athletics track. Then, she shot off. In the second lap, she ran ahead and smoothly broke the national record, finishing over the line far ahead of her competitors in 1:55:28. 

Mokgadi is in top form, and with her competitors nowhere close to her as she crossed to the finish, it’s clear the game has a lot of ground to cover to get to where she is. The 25-year-old shared the podium with Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba, who took silver, and Kenya’s Margaret Wambui who came third. It marked a victory for South Africa, but also a proud moment for the African continent which now has three more women champions who have outrun the rest of the world at the Olympics.

Semenya first took the world — and headlines — by storm in 2009 at the World Championships where she won gold. Her legitimacy as an athlete has been questioned, but her triumphs have ignited pride in South Africans back home, and have been graceful.

As she stood, gold medal around her neck, singing the words to the national anthem at the medal ceremony, commentators noted that “thousands of articles will be written about this win”, but this moment, they said, is about one woman who beat seven of the world’s finest athletes so “she is the Olympic champion”.

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Raeesa Pather
Raeesa Pather
Ra’eesa Pather is a Cape Town-based general news and features journalist.
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