Mbalula defends Semenya's Olympic silver medal win
FOLLOWING 800m sensation Caster Semenya's Olympic silver medal win on Saturday, allegations surfaced that the athlete had deliberately not run to win gold, and the accusations have angered Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula.
Yesterday Mbalula lashed out at people making allegations that Semenya had deliberately opted not to go for gold to avoid the public and media scrutiny she experienced after winning the world title in Berlin three years ago, which triggered questions about her gender.
"That is just beer hall talk. There is no such thing. The whole team has done an excellent job.
"For a young woman like Caster to achieve what she did under so much pressure, whereby people judge who she is, is enormous. It is a victory to her human dignity," said Mbalula.
Semenya was pipped to the finish line by Russian Mariya Savinova - by more than a second - but managed to edge out another Russian, Ekaterina Poistogova, for silver.
"She is a courageous young woman. If I were in her shoes, I would never have coped. We must celebrate her victory. Winning silver is not easy. It takes plenty of sweat and blood," said Mbalula.
The minister heaped praise on all members of Team South Africa, most of whom return from the Games today.
Despite the team failing to reach the target of 12 medals set by the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee, Mbalula expressed his satisfaction with the six medals won - three gold, two silver and one bronze.
"These Olympics have definitely been our most successful with the six medals we have won. Though in quantitative terms we did not achieve the 12-medal target set by Sascoc, the three gold medals achieved by our athletes are a resounding success in qualitative terms and we should embrace them, treasure them and cherish them."
With the London Games over, the focus for the athletes and administrators now shifts to the next Olympics in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Mbalula stressed the importance of investing in developing athletes.
"We must celebrate this achievement and continue to raise our qualification bar for all our sporting people to make them more competitive in the upcoming international sports tournaments, including Rio 2016," Mbalula said.
"The [financial] investment that was put into the team was not enough. To do well in future we need to have a production house of athletes, which starts at school level. We can do better. Public and private corporate partnerships are critical in developing sports."