Johannesburg – South Africa's lone track medallist in two Olympic games, Caster Semenya, hit back on Tuesday at criticism of the tactics which resulted in her winning a silver medal in the women's 800m race.
There was speculation that Semenya did not go all out to win the race. “(There is)nothing much I can say. I try my best and I won a silver,” Semenya told reporters at OR Tambo International Airport on the team's arrival from London.
Semenya said people who questioned her motivation lacked knowledge about the sport.
“So whatever people are saying, they always talk, they know nothing about athletics. They just watch us running, they don't know what we're going through, so yeah, I tried my best.”
Semenya's medal was the first for South Africa in a track event since Mbulaeni Mulaudzi's silver at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. Despite her individual success, she was disappointed at being the only member of the track team to finish in a podium spot.
“For me, I'm a little disappointed about the results. We had a strong team so we were expecting at least another four medals, but at least we have a silver.”
Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula highlighted the performance of Semenya, who was South Africa's flag-bearer for the games.
“When you were running there our hearts nearly stopped. We don't (know) what your strategy was.
“Caster represents the greatest guts for women. It doesn't matter where you come from, you represent a symbol of (a) courageous woman in South Africa.”
Mbalula congratulated all the medallists. “There are no words that can describe the joy you have delivered. I don't think you can comprehend what you have done for this nation.
“Today we are united – black and white – with your deeds. For what you have done it will remain in the annals of history. You did not ask, but you obeyed.”
Mbalula said the gold medal won by Cameron van der Burgh in the 100m breaststroke, in a world record time, was the catalyst for the South African team.
“When Cameron got that first gold, like we said, if you don't believe don't catch that flight. When that gold was delivered it changed for our nation.
“I want to say to you Cameron, job well done. We would have been disappointed had you not delivered that gold.” – Sapa