Ockert de Villiers.

The indomitable Caster Semenya leads an all-star cast, producing world-class performances and striking a blow for female sport in the country.

Her achievements in 2018 are well documented, but it is worth looking back at some of her feats.

In 2018, she became the 800m-1 500m double Commonwealth Games champion, and broke four national records including Zola Budd’s 34-year-old South African mark in the three-and-three-quarter-lap event.

She is undoubtedly South Africa’s greatest female track-and-field star, and one of the best of the best in any sporting code in this country.

But Semenya was not the only female that flew the country’s flag with aplomb.

There were a host of fantastic performances on the global stage, which took some of the limelight away from their male counterparts.

Rikenette Steenkamp and Carina Horn joined Semenya in her assault on long-standing national records.

In the 100m at the Doha Diamond League, Horn became South Africa’s first woman to dip below 11 seconds, less than two months after she broke Evette de Klerk’s 28-year-old record.

Steenkamp, in turn, shaved 0.03 seconds off the previous South African 100m hurdles record Corien Botha set in 1998.

Add to that the junior and youth national 400m hurdles records Zeney van der Walt and Gontse Morake broke.

Morake also set a new youth triple jump record this season.

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Too fast? Too bad. I was born to do this. #justdoit

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Stellar female performances in 2018 were not limited to track and field athletes, however, but in swimming, cycling, weightlifting and triathlon as well.

Rising star Tatjana Schoenmaker reversed a worrying decline of South African female swimming.

SA’s women failed to qualify for the 2015 World Long-Course Championships and the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, highlighting a worrying a trend.

Schoenmaker not only qualified for last year’s World Championships, but in the World Student Games won a silver medal.

She made her breakthrough earlier this year, winning the 100m-200m breaststroke double at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April.

At the same Games, weightlifter Mona Pretorius, javelin throw queen Sunette Viljoen and one-lap hurdler Wenda Nel all took bronze.

Earlier this year, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio made history by finishing second at the Giro Rosa in Italy, which is the only Grand Tour in women’s cycling and the most prestigious on the calendar.

The future of SA sport, then, is very female – also considering the first week’s results from the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires.

Amber Schlebusch won the country’s first triathlon gold medal there on day one of the quadrennial showpiece.

The country’s second medal came courtesy of Duné Coetzee, who became the first SA female swimmer to earn a podium place at the Youth Olympics when she earned a silver medal.

SA female sport suffers from a serious lack of funding, but these athletes blazing a trail for future generations are sending out a message to corporates that they should not be ignored.



Saturday Star

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