I Never Want To Stop Celebrating South Africa’s Black Sportswomen Caster Semenya And Zanele Situ By Cheryl Roberts

9 Aug

Get this! We must not be shy to throw applause and indulge in celebration of the global sports feats and triumphs of South Africa’s black sportswomen, Caster Semenya and Zanele Situ. We are living in the time of  amazing world-class sports achievements by these black women; world accomplishments not easily attainable but indeed, achieved by South Africa’s Semenya and Situ.

It’s not like South Africa has a conveyor belt of black sports girl athletics talent. Yes, we have black girls participating in sport. However, they are largely invisible and missing when it comes to international representation. How much longer will we wait before we see again the era of spectacular athleticism of Semenya and Situ exhibited by an emerging generation of black girl athletes? Given that no world-class junior black girl athletics talent is being surfaced in South Africa, on the same level of that of Situ and Semenya, we must unapologetically revel in the triumphs and achievements of Situ and Semenya. This is their moment. This is our moment of appreciation and celebration, We might never again see, in our lifetime, such amazing sports feats being achieved by black South African sportswomen.

In a South African society of abundant sports talent and plentiful sports wealth located largely in elite male-dominated sports, black women in South African sport struggle, to not only become world-class, but also just to get out of the starting blocks en route to international participation.

In a South African sports paradigm saturated with male sports prowess, achieving black sportswomen at international level are few, but are remarkably out there. That they exist and have achieved on the international sports stage, is not only damn good, but splendid, given the struggling, adverse conditions most black girls and women have to contend with as they participate in sport.

When you’re a black woman in sport, negotiating your way onto international playing fields is most often littered with setbacks, disappointments, funding rejections, injury-challenges; this, coupled with the determination to triumph. It’s a harsh environment for women in sport who struggle much more than men, sometimes negotiating seemingly impossible pathways to higher levels of achievement. For black women, the struggle is much harder than for white women.

And, amidst the struggles pertaining to being black and non-able bodied, have emerged some amazing world-class black sportswomen from South African soil. Two of these sportswomen are athletes Caster Semenya and Zanele Situ; Semenya able bodied and Situ non-able bodied.

IMG_8303Black Sportswomen Caster Semenya And Zanele Situ Hold It  Down For Black Women

These black sportswomen have not only surfaced their talent. They have achieved spectacularly in world sport. Zanele Situ became Paralympic javelin champion in 2000 and Caster Semenya became Olympic champion in 2016. These are no easy-to-achieve feats! That Olympic and Paralympic titles have been won by these black South African women, is astounding.

These sports achievements are also much appreciated and respected when one recognises how harsh society is on and to black women. But these global sports triumphs have been attained by Semenya and Situ who demonstrate that black girls can develop into world-class and internationally achieving sportswomen.

I’ve noted already both Semenya and Situ being Olympic and Paralympic champions. In 2017, before Semenya even defends her world 800m title, both Situ and Semenya have won bronze medals at world events. Situ won bronze at the world para athletics and Semenya, a few days ago won bronze in the 1500m at the world athletics championship. These global feats are acknowledged and applauded in South Africa and by most South Africans. However, despite the spectacular, historical sports achievements by these black women, sponsorship/product endorsement still doesn’t come to them in recognition and praise of their sports successes.

For those of us who understand the interconnectedness of black and woman in a patriarchal, sexist, racist, misogynist, heterosexual-dominated society, we emphasise these sports achievements are claimed and owned by BLACK women in sport. We know and experience what it is to be black woman in a society most times intent at keeping you down, instead of supporting you.

When they participate in competition, Semenya and Situ carry the hopes of their blackness, gender, bodies for themselves and all who know the importance of having black sportswomen achievers. I can’t stop at celebrating Semenya and Situ; actually, I don’t want to stop overflowing the respect and applause. You see, in a South Africa where men get most sports media, money, recognition and applause, the sports feats of black women like Semenya and Situ give us much celebration alternatives, instead of having to applaud only success of sportsmen.

I want to enjoy and celebrate every moment of their fabulous sports feats. I want to feel with them when their world-class results are missing, when body and hustle are playing up, when the struggle feels harder than before. And when Semenya and Situ and other black sportswomen triumph internationally, I never want to stop my applause and celebration. Because I know that I’m experiencing amazing sports feats of black sportswomen.

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