GOLDEN girl Caster Semenya yesterday thanked South Africa for supporting her.

Many people had gathe-red in Church Square, Pretoria waiting to hear what Semenya had to say. They demanded to hear her deep voice.

She then said: "Thank you for your support," which was followed by an appreciative "Caster, Caster, Caster" from the crowd.

Her mother could not contain her joy as thousands helped her to welcome her daughter at OR Tambo International Airport.

Politicians, musicians, family and the public turned up to welcome the three South African medalists - Semenya, Mbulaeni Mulaudzi and Kgotso Mokoena.

Dorcas Semenya was all smiles as she said: "I am very proud and happy about the gold medal that my child received. I am so grateful that she put our name on the international map."

On the gender controversy, she said: "I cannot comment about the scientists and professors, all I know is that I gave birth to a girl in 1991," she said.

Caster and the other athletes were greeted with song, dance, vuvuzelas, newspaper and home-made posters in the arrivals terminal.

Those not part of the cele-brations were swept by waves of crowds of hundreds of people waiting for South Africa's Woman's Month hero Caster.

Many did not know what was happening until they enquired or read the posters.

But construction workers and airport officials were warned on Monday to expect large crowds, said construction worker Mmereki Nale.

Security personnel and police had their hands full trying to control the crowds, eager to see their heroes.

When the woman of the moment finally emerged from the terminals, people pushed, pulled and fought off efforts by the police to keep them away from their heroine.

There was a momentary stampede as the athletes were led to their bus. Some people fell.

Caster looked overwhelmed by all the support, but smiled and waved.

Limpopo ANC Women's League secretary Maite Marutha said: "We are here as women to support this wonderful star. It is not easy for someone from a rural area to represent us like this. We are so proud."

The Duduza Cultural Group were also at the airport in Zulu attire to entertain the crowds.

Tshepo Motshoene of the nine-man group said: "We now believe that we can achieve great things and also become champions because of Caster'sachievements."