All you need is love, says Semenya after great win
Caster Semenya used her golden triumph at the Rio Olympics to speak out against discrimination she has faced in sport. Semenya became the first black South African woman to win a Games gold when she triumphed in the women’s 800m in a 1min 55.28sec national record.
Francine Niyonsaba, of Burundi, was second in 1:56.49 and Kenya’s Margaret Wambui third in 1:56.89.
Semenya, 25, slapped down a question put to her and her fellow medallists at the postrace media conference, asking if they had all been forced to take medication to lower testosterone levels and what effects that had had on them.
Wambui politely suggested they focus on the track performances, not the medication.
Semenya took a firmer stance. “Excuse me, my friend,” she said. “I think tonight is all about performance.
“We’re not here to talk about IAAF [world governing body of athletics], not here to talk about some speculations,” adding: “I think this press conference is all about the 800m we ran today, so thank you.”
Semenya and other female athletes are believed to be intersex, so benefiting from the elevated testosterone their bodies produce naturally.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport last year ruled that there was no proof that extra testosterone was beneficial and ruled that they need not take medication.
The IAAF has until next year to submit proof to the contrary.
During interviews in the mixed zone earlier, Semenya had spoken about sport uniting people.
Asked to explain what she meant by that, her reply clearly referred to her own experiences of ridicule and criticism, which started the moment she first burst onto the international scene in 2009, winning the world championships as a junior athlete.
“It’s all about loving one another,” Semenya, who was initially also subjected to humiliating gender tests, said.
“It’s [not] about discriminating against people, it’s [not] about looking at people [for] how they look, you know, how they speak, how they run.
“It’s [not] about being muscular. It’s all about sports.
“I think when you walk out of your apartment, you think about performing, you do not think about [what] your opponents look like . . . the advice is everybody is just to go out there and have fun.”
Tearful British athlete Linsey Sharp did not seem to have as much fun finishing sixth in the final, focusing her criticism on those who had made the decision to stop enforced hormonal treatment by intersex rivals.
“You can see how emotional it all was,” she reportedly told BBC. “It is out of our control and how much we rely on people at the top sorting it out.
“The public can see how difficult it is with the change of rules but all we can do is give it our best.”
There had been concerns before the Games that Semenya would need protection from the scrutiny she would face if she won gold.
But these were unfounded, because SA’s golden girl has reached a point where she is happy within herself.
Semenya had no qualms talking openly about her gay marriage and love for Violet.
“My wife is waiting for my call,” she said at one stage.