Publish date: 27 November 2023
Issue Number: 1055
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Caster Semenya is the women's 800m Olympic and world champion. Since 2009, she has withstood years of intense speculation and has become a catalyst who redefines the debate around gender and sport. In an interview with News24, Semenya's unpacks her autobiography, The Race To Be Myself (Jonathan Ball).
Why is now the time for your story to be shared? Now is a good time for me to tell my story simply because I am ready. Over the years, my focus has been on performing and being the great athlete I am today. The focus that is required to become a great athlete does not allow for pauses. I am now at a place where I have time to reflect, I am also at a place where I am mentally and emotionally ready to share my story.
In July, you won your appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, which called for you to reduce your testosterone levels to participate in World Athletics as a woman. What does this win mean for you, and for the equality of sport and gender? This win for me signifies that the fight for humanity and for others to be accepted as they are and treated with dignity and respect has been recognised. It is a proud feeling for me to know that my team and I are at the helm of bringing attention to such issues. That we are making significant changes in the sports fraternity. It also means our youth can come into an environment that is inclusive. I hope that they are learning through me to always stand on the side of what is right, without fear.
Over the last 13 years, your personal life and physicality have been interrogated for the world to see. How has the mindset and discipline of being an athlete equipped you for the adversity you have endured? When I run a race, my approach is always to lock out the outside world and my opponents. My vision at that point is me, and the road ahead. I run my own race. How I choose to run the race is ultimately what contributes towards the end goal. It's me against me. This mindset is what has set me apart from other athletes. This approach is one that I use beyond the track. This display of independence, courage, motivation and strength is what has helped me persevere throughout my journey thus far.
What has the role of coach for the next generation of athletes shown you about yourself? It has given me insight to myself as a person and an athlete and made me view who Caster is like I never have before. The hardest thing to do in life is to critique yourself. To say this has been a defining moment would be an understatement. I have learnt to acknowledge the best parts of me...and pour that into my students.
Your partnership with Nike, and your 2018 advert – 'When you're born to do it, just do it’ – was a revolutionary moment for many. How has partnering with one of the best in sports apparel shown you the power of platform? My relationship with Nike is one that dates back to the start of my career. Nike has taught me the importance of family outside the conventional family setting. The Nike Brand for me represents so much more. They have surpassed the point of a business relationship and have put my needs above profit. I have always been allowed to be myself and have flourished under their guidance, love and support. This relationship remains one of the best experiences of my career. To be affiliated with access to such a powerful platform is a success story on its own. It feels great to be a part of a winning team with solid values.