Sat Sep 23 16:38:04 SAST 2017

SA's Olympic stars turn back the clock

By Daniel Mothowagae | 2016-07-28 07:57:55.0

  • STRONG ROOTS: USA's Serena Williams in action at Wimbledon, and with her siblings Photo: Stefan Wermuth/REUTERS

  • CUTE: Neymar of Brazil has shed his curly locks Photo: Buda Mendes/Getty Images

  • PROUD: Anaso Jobodwana looks snug and warm in his baby pic Photo: Mustafa Yalcin/Getty Images

  • ADORABLE: Caster Semenya of SA on the track and as a babyPhoto: Roger Sedres/Gallo Images

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South African Olympians Itumeleng Khune, Caster Semenya and Anaso Jobodwana have turned back the clock in their build up to the Rio Games.

They are part of a unique international campaign by their apparel sponsor, Nike, where they tell stories via social media platforms on how they got to the top, illustrating their narratives with baby photos of themselves.

The campaign, hashtagged "champions aren't born, they're made", also has tennis ace Serena Williams, Brazil and Barcelona star Neymar as some of the prominent names that will compete at the Rio Olympics starting next week.

Khune, 28, and Neymar, 24, are part of the Games as overage players in their respective under-23 teams for the Olympic football tournament.

"My story began in the streets of Tshing where I dreamed of playing for KC [Kaizer Chiefs] and Bafana Bafana," noted Khune, referring to his humble origins in the Ventersdorp township in North West.

London 2012 Olympics silver medallist Semenya never really mentioned where it all started for her, but her message, "I'm fighting to be the best" carries her photo as an infant.

World championships bronze medallist Jobodwana said: "My story began in Phakamisa where I dreamed of running against the best. Now my dreams are reality."

The 23-year-old is now in the same league as Jamaican icon Usain Bolt. The two are likely to renew their rivalry in the 200m in Rio, having squared up at the London Games four years ago.

Their most recent meeting was at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China almost a year ago where Bolt left American Justin Gatlin trailing in second and Jobodwana in third.

Neymar, meanwhile, carries the hopes of a football-mad nation still reeling from the disappointment of the 2014 Fifa World Cup.

His story began in Mogi das Cruzes, "with my family by my side. Now, I walk with all of Brasil," wrote the 2012 Games runner up with the junior Selecao.

World number one Williams said her roots are in Michigan, USA.

"My story began in Compton where I dreamed of winning a Grand Slam," wrote the 34-year-old on her time line.

She and her sibling Venus have been included in Team USA.

Meanwhile, the Nike gimmick, as expected, elicited different reactions from social media users - some witty and some stinging.

"Very motivational tweets from @Nike this morning. Champions aren't born. They're made! Love it!," said @proflush.

Some even made the parody of the Russia doping scandal out the campaign's theme.

"Perhaps that new Nike ad should be Champions aren't born. They're made (of performance enhancing drugs)," wrote @RichardsTweets.