Three years after suffering the indignation of having her gender questioned, South Africa’s Caster Semenya will walk into London’s Olympic stadium for the opening ceremony sporting a broad smile and carrying her country’s flag.
The 2009 world 800 metres champion said she would feel no pressure in London having felt the full force of controversy and an unwanted media spotlight since she won gold in Berlin.
“For me, it’s a dream come true, qualifying for the Olympics, it was a huge step for me,” Semenya, 21, told Reuters on Friday, hours before the Games opening ceremony.
Semenya’s emphatic victory in Berlin raised questions about her gender and started a verification process that still clouds her achievement.
A shy girl from a rural village, Semenya said her first Olympics were no more stressful than other championships.
“The Olympics are the same as world champs, as Diamond Leagues…it is a medal for concentration and dedication. For me it’s the same thing.
“I don’t have a lot of pressure because I’ve been competing for so long.”
Semenya has struggled for form this season but she is hoping to draw inspiration from former South African president Nelson Mandela.
“He means a lot to me. He made me believe that I can do this, through thick and thin. Because when I met him he just told me to believe I can do it, (you) just have to be strong, that’s all.”