Caster Semenya dedicates gold medals to Madikizela-Mandela

South Africa’s Caster Semenya (C gold), Kenya’s Margaret Nyairera Wambui (L silver) and Jamaica’s Natoya Goule (bronze) pose with their medals after the athletics women's 800m final during the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games at the Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast on April 13, 2018.
South Africa’s Caster Semenya (C gold), Kenya’s Margaret Nyairera Wambui (L silver) and Jamaica’s Natoya Goule (bronze) pose with their medals after the athletics women's 800m final during the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games at the Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast on April 13, 2018.
Image: SAEED KHAN / AFP

Caster Semenya on Friday dedicated her golden double at the Commonwealth Games to the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela‚ saying she and her late ex-husband Nelson Mandela had ignited a fire inside her.

Semenya won the 800m in Gold Coast on Friday to add to the 1500m title she claimed earlier in the week‚ and then said she and Madikizela-Mandela had enjoyed a good relationship.

“We were very close. I was just sad when I heard the news but I didn’t want to concentrate on that a lot. I just wanted to perform for her to show that appreciation‚” Semenya said.

The athlete obliged in fine style‚ winning both events in Games records‚ also breaking Zola Budd’s 34-year-old national mark in the 1500m.

“I really appreciate what she has done for us as South Africans so may her soul rest in peace.”

Semenya said Madikizela-Mandela’s message to her had been to love and appreciate herself.

“That’s the only thing these great leaders will tell you — the same as the late uTata Nelson Mandela told me‚ I’m a great athlete‚ I just need to lead by example.

“I must go out there and show the world what we are made of. We are South African‚ we are a great nation.

“Never be fooled by the noise. Silence is the best response to a fool. That’s what they told me.”

Semenya has lived by that motto‚ not responding to critics vocal on the gender issue‚ instead continuing to perform on the track.

A case that could impact on transgender athletes has been before the Court of Arbitration in Switzerland for a few years‚ but the middle-distance star has remained quiet on the matter.

“I’m showing wherever they are looking down‚ they know they planted a seed in me that created this fire in me. I just carried on living the legacy.”

The Olympic and world 800m champion‚ who has now stretched her unbeaten streak in the 800m to 34 races dating back to late 2015‚ said she wanted to inspire girls from the rural areas.

“Sometimes‚ to be honest‚ if you always win‚ you run out of emotions‚ you don’t know how to express feelings‚ you don’t know how to celebrate.

“But it’s not about me anymore. It’s about the African girls who come from the rural areas who do not believe that they can do this … if you believe in yourself‚ anything is possible.

“This is just for them‚ to inspire them that they need to work hard‚ to believe in themselves.”

This was the first step to attempting the double again at the world championships in Doha next year‚ and even at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

“It would be great if I could repeat this at the world champs‚ in the Olympics‚” said Semenya‚ who took the 1500m in London last year.

“Maybe I would be more emotional. This is the first step to the world champs‚ and the Olympics.”

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