In reviewing the year I celebrate and emphasise South Africa’s fabulous black sportswomen who claimed global recognition, world triumph and recognition for our country and continent, Africa. I want to center the black woman’s sports prowess and sports achievement in a year of exceptional honour and accomplishment, despite the chains that black sportswomen carry.
This was not only a year of phenomenal sports prowess from South Africa’s sportswomen. It was a year of fabulous sports feats and achievements, especially from elite black sportswomen.
Never before has South Africa, in one year, boasted a black woman Olympic champion, a black woman Paralympic medallist and a black woman world boxing champion. These were the awesome sports feats of Caster Semenya (athletics), Zanele Situ (Paralympic athlete) and Noni Tenge (boxing). Coupled with these world triumphs and accomplishments are those of recognised world class netballer Pumza Maweni.
In a year that saw the spectacular feats of male athlete Wayde van Niekerk and male cricketer Kagiso Rambada, the black woman’s sports achievements are not celebrated as hugely and admirably as befitting the black sportswomen.
The sports achievements of Semenya, Situ, Tenge and Maweni have been written about and broadcasted, but they still don’t dominate the sports headlines in a country where sport profiling is vehemently male-centered, controlled and idolised.
Over the past two decades, I’ve written much about the struggles and hardships of black girls and women in sport in South Africa; how their socio-economic status and black gender and skin impacts on their access to opportunities in sport, from grassroots to elite participation.
In the post-apartheid, democratic South Africa, much more opportunities have been created for black girls and black women to participate in sport. However, most of this participation is not consolidated. Much as the participation avenues are opened up, future development and growth is also blocked, as access to required funding for elite sports preparation is hard to come by and is every black sportswoman’s struggle.
Athletics and netball are the popular sports for black girls and women; this is where they are concentrated. It is these sports that must produce the elite black women sports champions. Undoubtedly, this year was massive achievement for black sportswomen in athletics and netball; especially with 2016 being an Olympic and Paralympic year.
Yet, despite these fantastic world triumphs and recognition, South Africa’s black sportswomen still go unnoticed by those corporate sponsors that associate their companies with sport.
Why has Zanele Situ, Noni Tenge and Pumza Maweni not got corporate sponsorship and funding? Why are these highly achieving, amongst the best in the world black sportswomen, not achieved millionaire status as they deserve from sports earnings like white sportsmen and some black sportsmen? Why has Caster Semenya not being signed up by corporates and businesses after her phenomenal 2016 Olympic achievement and athletics feats?
It’s because they are black sportswomen and black women in sport, and black women are not recognised for their sports prowess and ability but are dissed, ignored and marginalised because they seemingly don’t fit the requirements of largely white owned corporates and advertising!
With 2016 being the year of these outstanding feats and honours, it would be easy to assume that black girls and women are being supported with corporate funding assistance and government backing. This is not so; indeed, the participation paradigm still reveals struggles to go from national level onto international sports domains.
What Semenya, Situ, Tenge and Maweni displayed and continue to do, are their talents and determination to overcome. This could not go unnoticed within sports federations as these women athletes broke the barriers, just with their talent. But what about the talented, yet struggling and battling young black sportswomen, those who are emerging as national youth and junior champions? Is there a secure future for them or will they be lost somewhere in the middle of the sports system?
Black women can achieve in sport, all the way to claiming Olympic and Paralymic gold medals, as Caster Semenya showed in 2016 and Zanele Situ in 2000 at the Sydney Paralympics. However, we want the black woman to be supported in sport, for her existence to be acknowledged and not marginalised.
2016 was a year of awesome sports joy for South Africa and our elite black sportswomen of Semenya, Situ, Tenge and Maweni are right up with their remarkable contribution to sports achievement. It’s because of these fabulous black sportswomen, that my cup ranneth over with black sportswoman joy and pride in 2016. This is my acknowledgement of the fabulous 2016 black sportswoman year.