Women’s sport in South Africa is still fighting for a share of the spotlight, but there are signs that attitudes towards female codes are changing.
The past year has produced a mixed bag of results with our women breaking new ground on the international scene.
We take a look at some of the good and bad moments that have left an indelible mark on the 2019 sporting calendar.
After a breakthrough 2018 in which she won Commonwealth Games double gold, the question remained whether she would be able to translate that success onto a bigger stage.
Schoenmaker gave an emphatic answer by becoming the first South African woman to medal at the Fina World Long Course Championships in Gwangju, South Korea. She won the 200m breaststroke silver medal on her debut at the senior championships, adding to the double gold she earned at the World Student Games less than a fortnight earlier.
To add more lustre to the occasion, Schoenmaker shared the final spotlight with training partner Kaylene Corbett. This marked the first time in nearly two decades that South Africa had two women in a final at a major global swimming event.
The South African netball team continued their rise on the global stage, finishing fourth at the World Cup in Liverpool. The Proteas produced the country’s best result at the global tournament since 1995, reaching the semi-final where they lost to Australia. The bronze-medal match proved to be a bridge too far with the team losing to hosts England for the second time in the tournament.
Netball’s successes in 2019 were not limited to the court with South Africa winning the hosting rights for the 2023 Netball World Cup which will be held in Cape Town.
The Parktown Girls’ High learner broke new ground for South African gymnastics, becoming the first South African to win a gold medal at an international gymnastics competition. She finished first in the uneven bars at the FIG Challenge Cup in Szombathely, Hungary.
Rooskrantz highlighted her potential at the Artistic World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany where she was the top-performing South African. She became the first South African woman to qualify for the Olympic Games in artistic gymnastics since the end of isolation.
The year plunged the South African track queen into one of the lowest points of her illustrious career.
Semenya lost her appeal against the IAAF’s female eligibility rules before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in May.
The regulations require women with naturally elevated levels of testosterone to lower it to below five nanomoles for at least six months.
The rules are aimed at female athletes competing in the distances between 400 metres and the mile, which are the events Semenya excels in on the global stage. Caster continued her decade-long fight against the IAAF, launching an appeal at the Swiss Federal Supreme Court. The court is expected to rule on the matter in early 2020.
The national team made history with their debut at the Fifa Women’s World Cup.
Banyana Banyana failed to win a match at the global showpiece though, resulting in an early exit in France. They suffered defeats to powerhouses Germany, Spain and China.
Their presence at the World Cup, though, finally saw the gender pay gap shrinking after Safa announced the team would earn the same as the men’s team at the World Cup. But the highs of reaching the World Cup would make way for a disappointment after the team failed to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games.