27 February 2018

South Africa: Semenya's Powerful Message of Positivity

Photo: Ivan Alvarado/Reuters Media Express
South Africa's Caster Semenya celebrates after winning the 800m final at the Rio Olympics (file photo)

South Africa's Caster Semenya has, over the years, learnt how to deal with those who question her success.

Ever since 2009, when the IAAF ordered that Semenya undergo a gender verification test, Semenya has been at the centre of debates surrounding gender testing and testosterone levels in women's sport.

While she has received abundant support from back home, there has also been a vocal corner of the sporting community that has constantly questioned the fairness of Semenya competing against her rivals in women's running.

On Tuesday night, Semenya will irk those critics even further when she is announced as a nominee in the Sportswoman of the Year award at the 2018 Laureus World Sports Awards in Monaco.

Six-time Olympic gold medallist Allyson Felix, swimmer Katie Ledecky, tennis star Garbine Muguruza, skiing sensation Mikaela Shiffrin and Serena Williams are also nominated for the award.

Whether she wins or not is unimportant to Semenya, but what is relevant is the fact that she has been identified and honoured as one of the most dominant sportswomen on the planet.

The 27-yearpold has come a long way since her career was temporarily put on ice by the IAAF in 2009, and along the way she has developed a thick skin and positive approach to the inevitable controversy that has followed her.

Semenya, simply, wants to run races and win medals, and she doesn't have much time to think about anything else.

"I'm a human and there are emotions, but I studied psychology and sports physiology. I know how to treat my emotions," she said from Monaco on Tuesday, hours before the Awards.

"There are people who will undermine and judge, but I cannot take it in mind. My main focus is to become a great athlete. I want to be a good example to the kids and whatever people say, it's their opinion and not mine.

"When I look back I want to see that I've ploughed back. There are kids who look up to me and I need to set up a good example."

When met by detractors, Semenya's approach is a simple one.

"If you come and you try to distract me, I have to find a way to get back onto the right track. If somebody tried to come with negativity, you need to change it into a positive," she said.

"I know that sport is not personal and emotions can never help you win.

"I believe that I've been sent here for a reason, and I'll never let people jeopardise that."

Semenya is the only African nominated at the Laureus Awards, which get underway at 20:00 (SA time).

*Lloyd Burnard is in Monaco as a guest of Laureus ...

Source: Sport24

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