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Thu Apr 17 02:50:15 SAST 2014

How Caster got her groove back

ANDILE NDLOVU and CHUMANI BAMBANI | 15 August, 2012 06:390 Comments
2012 London Olympics: Athletics
Caster Semenya of South Africa smiles after receiving her silver medal in the women's 800m during the evening session of athletics at the Olympic Stadium on August 11, 2012 in London, England
Image by: Roger Sedres / Gallo Images

Caster Semenya's cousin Evelyn Sekgala had to haul her TV and chairs onto her veranda for visitors to watch the Olympic silver medallist with her.

"All the neighbours were here, saying they wanted to watch with me because they know she grew up here. It was packed, and we were screaming: 'Caster, Caster' - we started dancing towards the end because she did well."

There had been no opportunity to give the 21-year-old athlete a send-off ahead of the Olympics because of the relentless schedule she was under, Sekgala said yesterday.

The long-distance runner grew up in Limpopo under Sekgala's watchful eye. As she sat on the veranda and washed clothes in a bucket yesterday, Sekgala reminisced about the days before Semenya's superstardom.

"She was very respectful, and not somebody that was always on the streets. She would go to school, come back and focus on her books. When that was done she would go for her run.

"She would say: 'Don't worry about dinner, I'll cook when I get back', and even though we would protest, because she returned tired, she kept her promises."

Sekgala's neighbourhood in Fairlie - and even around the Semenya home some kilometres away in Ga-Masehlong - was yesterday the complete opposite of the pandemonium of Sunday night.

Save for a handful of children playing soccer and the occasional donkey crossing the dusty, untarred street, very little was happening.

Hundreds of kilometres away in Johannesburg, Semenya blasted accusations that she had deliberately conceded the Olympic race to Russian world champion Mariya Savinova in order to steer clear of the adverse publicity she had found herself embroiled in following her world championship title in 2009.

"I tried my best and I am happy that I won silver. People will always talk, even if they know nothing about athletics. I'm grateful to those who have supported me and will continue making them proud."

Semenya nonchalantly told journalists at OR Tambo International Airport her main focus was not the 2016 Olympics in Rio but next year's world championships in Moscow.

Earlier at the press conference, she was flanked by the other medallists, swimmers Chad Le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh, kayaker Bridgitte Hartley and rowers Sizwe Ndlovu, Matthew Brittain, John Smith and James Thompson.

The airport precinct was a scene of colour from an hour-and-a-half before the athletes were scheduled to touch down.

Bronze-wining Hartley said before catching a flight home to Durban: "I am exhausted. I just want to get home. I could just come back on another day to celebrate with the rest of the country. The reception we have had is amazing."

Sascoc president Gideon Sam suggested there would be little respite for the athletes, telling them: "I will, within the next week or two, be sending you the programme for Rio 2016. It's going to be hard."

PRIZE MONEY WON:

  • Le Clos - R600000
  •  
  • Van der Burgh - R400000
  • Semenya - R200000
  •  
  • Hartley - R80000
  • Ndlovu, Brittain, Smith and Thompson - R100000 each

  • Graham Hill, Le Clos's coach - R150000
  •  
  • Dirk Lange, Van der Burgh's coach - R100000
  •  
  • Maria Mutola (Semenya's coach) - R50 000
  • Nandor Amalsi, Hartley's coach - R20000

  • Roger Barrow and Paul Jackson, rowing coaches - R100000 shared
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How Caster got her groove back

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