South Africans show Semenya support
Tuesday 25 August 2009
New 800 metres world champion Caster Semenya received a rousing welcome after touching down in Johannesburg with her South African team-mates today.
The 18-year-old, who made global headlines last week after doubts were raised over her gender at the World Championships, was accompanied by the country's two other medallists from Berlin - men's 800m champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi and long-jump silver medallist Khotso Mokoena.
Thousands of supporters crammed the OR Tambo International Airport - waving placards, singing, dancing and simply hoping to catch a glimpse of the teenage heroine.
A delegation from the government ruling African National Congress' women's league were among the crowd along with the country's minister for women, children and disabilities Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya and Winnie Madikizela Mandela, the ex-wife of former president Nelson Mandela.
Leonard Chuene, president of Athletics South Africa (ASA) was full of praise for Semenya and called for the matter over her gender to be laid to rest.
He said: "We have not once, as ASA, doubted her. It's very simple: She's a girl.
"We took this child to Poland to the junior championship under the IAAF.
"Why was there no story about it? She was accepted there. No-one said anything there because she did not do anything special.
"She is the same girl. No-one asked why did we take her. She went to Mauritius and ran well, suddenly everyone noticed her. You say we didn't do much to protect her. What did you want us to do?
"As ASA we didn't have any of this information (on her gender) that people wanted us to protest about. When you go to dope testing, you go with a woman and she can see you are a woman.
"When you are born, you can see whether you are a boy or girl. You don't test children in the lab to confirm."
The athletes, along with officials from ASA, are also due to meet president Jacob Zuma later today.
Last Wednesday Semenya won gold in the two-lap race at the Olympic Stadium, crossing the line in a personal best of one minute 55.45 seconds - also the fastest time of 2009 - to finish ahead of defending champion Janeth Jepkosgei of Kenya and Great Britain's Jenny Meadows.
Her performance came after the IAAF earlier revealed they had been investigating Semenya's gender following her breakthrough performance in winning the African junior championship title at the end of July.
She ran a stunning time of 1:56.72secs in Mauritius - at the time striking almost four seconds off her previous best time - and her sudden rise raised many questions.
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