Thu Oct 27 07:15:40 CAT 2016

Welcome function turns into ANC rally

By Pertunia Ratsatsi | Aug 26, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

IT WAS billed as a welcome home party for our champion athletes, but it turned out to be an impromptu political rally.

IT WAS billed as a welcome home party for our champion athletes, but it turned out to be an impromptu political rally.

Not even the girl of the moment was allowed to say a word, as she was said to have been too traumatised to share her thoughts.

Sowetan approached Semenya but she declined to talk, saying: "I was instructed not to talk to the media."

Athletics South Africa president Leonard Chuene said Semenya could only talk after she had consulted a psychologist because she was traumatised by the controversy around her gender.

"She is not in the right state of mind to speak to the media but she will be able to after seeing a psychologist," Chuene said.

When Semenya was eventually allowed to say a few words during the media briefing, she said: "I don't know what to say. It feels good winning a gold medal and bringing it home for the first time in my life. The experience of the world championships, wow I couldn't believe it. I called my coach before the semifinal and the final and he told me that I could do it. In the last 200m I killed them and they could not follow, it was cool."

While Semenya and her family members were not allowed to speak to the media, politicians such as ANC Youth League president Julius Malema and former ANC Women's League president Winnie Madikizela-Mandela hogged the limelight. They spoke at the Oliver Tambo International airport about how South Africa needed to support the sensational runner.

After meeting President Jacob Zuma at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, Semenya, silver medalist Khotso Mokoena and gold medalist Mbulaeni Mulaudzi drove down to Church Square in an open-top Tshwane municipality bus.

Fifteen Metro Police women bikers also took part in the victory parade for the three athletics medallists.

The Pretoria city centre where the bus drove through were lined with people who wanted to catch a glimpse of the Limpopo sprinter who captured the attention of the world.

The bus stopped for about 20 minutes at Church Square where people demanded to hear Semenya's deep voice. She then said: "Thank you for your support," which was followed by an appreciative "Caster, Caster, Caster" from the crowd.

Some supporters even confessed to bunking work to see and congratulate the champions in person.

The visibly tired Semenya could not stop smiling and waving at fans who came out in their numbers to welcome her home.


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