Why Is There No Money For South Africa’sWomen In Sport? By Cheryl Roberts

1 Jun

 

There’s no denying that gender inequalities exist in South African sport. There is general agreement that sport in South Africa mirrors our society’s patriarchal entrenchment, male-domination and male hegemony. Women in sport suffer because of men’s control of sport.

The imbalances, inequalities and discrimination have been spoken about, called out and protested against by various voices and writings about South African sport narratives. But why do women in sport and sportswomen continue to be victims of gender discrimination? Why are sportswomen made to struggle when gender discrimination doesn’t exist in South Africa’s constitution; a constitution existing to protect and look after South Africa’s people?IMG_0935

Professional leagues, allowing for sportswomen to play sport full-time and as career opportunities don’t exist in sport, yet they exist plentiful for men in sport. Women in sport and sportswomen are crying out for full-time, professional leagues which will allow and help women to concentrate on sport like their international counterparts and be accorded the same privilege as their men counterparts.

It’s always the same answer when professional leagues for sportswomen, are called for. ‘There is no money and there is no sponsor willing to buy into a professional league’, is the similar reply from men sports administrators. But why is there no money when women are consumers, buying from and supporting businesses and corporates?

There is a fundamental and conscious neglect of sportswomen advancement and development of women in sport in South African sport. If sports federations can develop sports boys and sportsmen, then why do they not also focus on the sportswomen? disgustingly, many sports federations look much better after sports boys and junior boys in sport than sportswomen!

Are the answers not blatant and obvious? Men in control of sport look after men’s interests in sport and give less attention to women in sport. Yes, there is development of girls in sport in sports federations but the girls are not sufficiently and adequately assisted and supported to international level.

In most sports in South Africa, sportsgirls and sportswomen simply don’t get enough domestic and international competition. There’s always not enough money to assist the sportswomen. When there is money allocated from government or LOTTO (SA sport’s major funders), then some sports have the audacity to focus on the boys and men whilst neglecting the girls and women.

South African sport gets away with this neglect of developing and advancing women in sport because there is no organised resistance and protest against gender discrimination. There is no power of sportswomen being shown, by the women in sport for the sportswomen! So the men controlling sport can deliver sport  thru their male lens knowing they can continue on this pathway without being brought down. Seemingly, sportswomen accept the handouts given to them here and there, now and then. But this is not so. Sportswomen are angry; they are also afraid to speak out in case they are victimised within their sports federation.

Sportswomen have had enough of this male control and domination of sport. Cricket has launched a global tournament, rugby is bidding to host a world cup and SASCOC found R100 million for a Commonwealth Games Bid process. So there is money and money can be found for sport. Why can’t money be found to advance women in sport?

It’s not that money doesn’t exist! It’s because preservation of male hegemony in sport in South Africa is pivotal to keeping men in control of sport, with women and sportswomen getting some attention here and there, but never getting the financial power they need.

If the men officials in sport really had the desire to disrupt male control and male privilege in South African sport, they would mount a fierce campaign against gender discrimination and inequality in South African sport. It’s because men’s interests and power are preserved and maintained, that men sports officials have little desire to disrupt and challenge a system of support that favours them incredibly.

South Africa’s Minister Of Sport Must Challenge Inequalities In SA Sport By Cheryl Roberts

17 May

For Minister of Sport, Mr Thembelani Nxesi and South African sport, it all happened so quickly; the recent cabinet reshuffle of the Republic of South Africa. It’s a political appointment in the ANC-administered national government. For now, let’s leave aside which political party Mr Nxesi represents, or the fact that he’s in the cabinet of a President, severely and seriously challenged by groupings of citizens in South Africa.

Let’s get started by acknowledging we are living in a structurally unequal, male-controlled, minority wealthy, white privilege South Africa, where we are involved in sport as participants and consumers and want opportunities to play sport in the country.

I’m not giving a report card about predecessor, Fikile Mbalula and how he managed, administered and responded to leadership of sports organisation and development. As the political head of sport and recreation in South Africa, the Minister of Sport must understand and acknowledge how sport operates in an unequal society, where the minority middle class and privileged elites have easier access to sport than the majority working class; this because of their class position and money.

It’s paramount that Mr Nxesi gets going by ensuring Sport and Recreation South Africa is not managed as an events company, hosting events here and there, flaunting achievements and accomplishment on how many events are hosted whenever.

I’m telling Minister Nxesi upfront that girls and women in sport have had enough of being victims of gender inequalities and discrimination in sport. South Africa’s women in sport are demanding not to be neglected, marginalised or hardly supported.

National, professional and full-time leagues for women in sport are almost non-existent. How must South Africa’s women in sport thrive , compete internationally and produce performances when they compete in chains?

8cheryl roberts  in the rain forest in ghana

Cheryl Roberts (writer of the blog)

 

All national federations must produce vision/ambition blueprints about how women will be represented in sport; from club level to international athlete and officialdom. Black girls are participating in sport, but sadly most of them are being lost in the system and moving out the system. Why is this happening?

Discard the transformation rhetoric; never be afraid to honestly portray and admit that the sports network is one that functions amidst structural inequalities because it’s a capitalist sport network, flowing out of a structurally unequal society. Gender, class, race must inform all sport policies and implementation of policies when strategising sport in South Africa.

It’s because of the inequalities and discrimination, that we must understand precisely and consciously, what it takes to transform sport in South Africa.

Transformation is not about a few black officials and players/athletes in some national teams. Transformation of sport in democratic, non-racial South Africa is much more than quotas. It’s also about redistribution of the sports wealth, especially the apartheid sports wealth, and about eliminating gender discrimination and inequality. It involves assessment and re-design of the organisation of sport. Most importantly, it necessitates a commitment and fulfillment by action to ensure grassroots and community sport in working class communities are supported, so that the foundation of sport is strong and grows.

For the struggling working class, sport is a privilege. Why must working class children, youth and the unemployed pay registration fees to federations? Besides the registration costs, it’s the transport and playing kit costs. Provincial government sports departments must support the working class in sport!

Unless you go to a suburban or expensive fees school, your chances of falling out of the sports pyramid are much better than staying in sport to elite level.  Organisation and development of school sport in working class areas, must be looked after.

The Minister of Sport has much power to implement effective, significant and pivotal change. Leadership and officialdom of sports federations must be examined. We have this unhealthy situation where officials get into positions and stay there for over 5 years, sometimes holding officialdom for 10 and 15 years, serving 2 and 3 terms of office. These long serving officials then get so accustomed in their positions (and the perks) that go with the position, that they begin to assume they ‘own’the position and the sport.’ I suggest officials serve just a four year term and then move onto something else in the sport.

Under the Minister of Sport’s mangement/jurisdiction, are the nine provincial departments of sport, the government SRSA and SASCOC. The budgets of these structures which exist to provide for sport, how and on what the money is spent must be meticulously mapped out and implemented. Money is not reaching grassroots sport effectively! Why must some provincial and national team members contribute personal funds to official representation in sport? What are the departments of sport really doing? Community sport is struggling; its being kept alive by some volunteers in some communities.

Who ‘own’s sport in SA? Seemingly corporates control and own sport at elite and professional level because of the funding and sponsorship. Corporates and businesses might be associated with sport through their funding, but no way do they own the sport. National federations own sport!

Sport in South Africa is surviving by elite funding to elite/ corporate sports while the grassroots and working class sport is struggling to survive. The Minister of Sport can no longer occupy this position and assume sport is healthily growing and developing.

State Of Women’s Football In South Africa: Questions And More Questions For SAFA By Cheryl Roberts

9 May

Women’s football development and organisation is moving at a fast pace the world over and SAFA have got to get woke and revolutionise women’s football in South Africa. Girls and women are playing football in large numbers; this football enthusiasm must be supported within and by SAFA.

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The cries for a national professional women’s football league in South Africa have not only increased but are overwhelming. Women footballers, coaches, football spectators and women in sport activists are all calling for the establishment of a viable, sustained national women’s football league.

I do believe that SAFA is very much aware of these calls for professional women’s football to take root. So we have to give SAFA some time to get going and implement. But SAFA can’t take too long, like several years and then continue to place blame on lack of sponsor interest. This demand is national and deep-rooted. It is a significant demand; one that should take the future of women’s football into another realm.

In the meantime, why can’t SAFA introduce a national knockout/cup competition, starting with regional knockout events and culminating in a champions event or Top Eight tournament? The Sasol League doesn’t offer much; its the same competition year in and year out. What else do players have to play for and be motivated to play for?

The national play offs that brings the regional champion clubs together, at the end of season, to compete for the national title must be re-visited and re-deressed. This tournament doesn’t adequately give players a chance to play on bigger stages because only the regional champion team competes and there’s about 4-6 other teams that contain much talented players who need to be exposed to higher levels of competition. How about four national teams/squads being chosen every three months fin categories for Banyana Banyana, u20 and u17 teams; four teams of propsective, possible, probable, emerging players. Play them against each other. Appoint coaches from around the country. See what talent is available.

Let’s talk about entry into SAFA’s high performance centre, that costs oer R6million a year to maintain. How do girl footballers gain entry/acceptance into the high performance center which seemingly is the cradle for national team make-up in the u17 and u20 categories. Are coaches and clubs told the requirements? Who does the recommendation and selection? Is entry into high peformance centre the only way you will be selected for SAFA’s u17 and u20 women’s football teams? Are there national seletors and coaches who scout for talent throughout the season and who listen to recommendations from coaches? Are all SAFA regions scouted for talent?

Now let’s ask some question about Banyana Banyana coaches and selectors? When is SAFA going to appoint a head coach for Banyana Banyana so that coach is aware of employment contract and what must be delivered and achieved? An interim coach cannot operate on insecurity and one game pressure to deliver. If SAFA doesn’t have confidence in the incumbent interim Banyana coach, then SAFA must appoint a coach that they believe in! Are Banyana Banyana coaches and selectors allowed to be associated with a Sasol League women’s football club? What about conflict of interest when that coach will not want rival clubs to have their players recognised at international level? Who does the scouting for Banyana Banyana and women’s youth teams? Why is selection so toightly controlled with just a few people having input and selecting? Broaden the selectors and advisers. Banyana Banyana is the national interest; it should be involving much more football knowledge with more scouts and selectors.

Speaking to players and knowing their viewpoints is vital. Contemporary sport can’t and should not be run as a dictatorship with officials and the coach being ‘the dictator’ and doing the dictating. Engage the players in conversation; hear their inputs and opinions about the state of their team. Let them talk freely and without fear of being dropped and not selected.

SAFA must intoduce new leaders and officials to guide and administer women’s football in South Africa. Look at the awesome talent out there, the young women in football, educated with tertiary qualifications, playing tertiary sport and engaging in national conversation about women in sport. Invite these young women to submit ideas about taking women’s football forward, employ their brain prowess as consultants should they not want to be permanent employees at SAFA.

Development of national under 17 and under 20 teams are pivotal. These teams and players are feeder to the national senior team. Why no friendly internationals arranged for the national u17 girls and u20 women’s football teams? South Africa’s counterparts in these age groups in Europe and North America are consistently playing internationals and improving. Just playing in CAF-organised qualifying world cup matches is not enough and doesn’t adequately prepare our youth women footballers. Concentration should be on under 20 women footballers!

There are capable women as football officials. They must be given a chance to be there in positions of power and leadership so they can advance change. SAFA has a handful of women as head of portfolios but these are the same ageing women; been there over years and decades. Over time, these women get to believe they own the position and refuse going on pension. Bring in fresh, intelligent voices to help advance women’s football in the country. Some fierce, vibrant, revolutionary thinking women are much needed in SASA. But then again being male-dominated and controlled, would SAFA want thinking and conscious women in their midst?

 

When Will Attacks On Black Sportswomen’s Bodies Stop! By Cheryl Roberts

25 Apr

 

 

 

8cheryl roberts  in the rain forest in ghana

Cheryl Roberts (writer of the blog)

Is there no freedom away from misogyny, racism and sexist/thuggish male commentary and white male gaze, for black sportswomen. For how much longer must the bodies of black women in sport be attacked? Even when the black sportswoman is world and Olympic champion, when she’s world class fabulous,   fierce and achieving amazing feats on international sports stages, there is no reprieve from the attacks, especially from the white male supremacists.

 Yes, it’s not all men who attack black sportswomen and yes there are white men who applaud black sportswomen prowess. But the attacks on the black sportswoman, particularly her humanly developed body, her natural hair, her black skin are horrendous. They are consistent and have support from misogynists.

The misogyny is especially levelled and thrown at highly achieving black sportswomen like South Africa’s Caster Semenya and USA’s tennis champion Serena Williams and boxing champion Claressa Shields. There are many more black sportswomen who are attacked, whose bodies have racist misogynistic missiles and arrows shot at them.

 Who and what racial inheritance gives people, especially white women and men the right or authority to ridicule and define the black sportswoman? The amazing sports abilities and their subsequent achievements of the elite black sportswoman are not applauded by the misogynists, sexists and racists. But then again if you are all of these ‘ists’  (misogynist, sexist, racist), how can you see beyond your limited mind and thinking when you see people through blinkered views and a white male gaze emanating from a white white supremacist inheritance?

Achieving black sportswomen have to be consistently upping their game on the sports stage and punching down those who dare to attack their bodies. Caster Semenya, Serena Williams, Claressa Shields are always speaking out; slamming those who claim a black sportswoman’s body as their ownership.

 These black sportswomen are strong and fierce; they are also supported by communities of fierce women who use strength and power to take on the misogynists, racists and sexists, especially on social media. The black sportswoman is not quiet or saying something like ‘I will leave you in God’s hands’. They hit back with power and the community of voices supporting them roar loud, louder, loudest.

Look at how Serena Williams responded to tennis player Ilie Nastase when she told him ‘I am not afraid, unlike you. You see I am no coward’’, said Serena.

Sports achievements for black women in sport, the world over, don’t come easily. The sport talent is there; but the resources to assist and support their talent is rarely there. But the black sportswoman works hard at training, presses on with her sports ambitions. And then they explode on sports stages and arenas and sports fields. For some, this is too much to accept; after all, the media they consume and society they inhabit has told them that ‘white bodies’ are the norm and standard.

And here arrives the black sportswoman, at the top of her game and top of the world’s best. And then comes the attacks because after all they ain’t the white and fair skinned women that people are accustomed to accepting as winners and champions.

If it’s not about her body being ‘like a man’ and sometimes ‘like a monkey’, then it’s about her natural hair. The attacks don’t stop; its always someone having something to say.

But the black sportswoman doesn’t allow this to bring her down or suffocate them. They hit back with sports prowess. Caster Semenya is world and Olympic 800m champion, Serena Williams is the greatest tennis player ever, and Claressa Shields is Olympic boxing champion.

And the black sportswoman has power. The power of her blackness, laid down over the years by those black women who also had to fight back.

So we applaud and feel the power of our blackness when Serena Williams claps back for all black women (replying to misogynist Ilie Nastase) with Maya Angelou’s fierce words’: ‘Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? You may shoot me with your words…..you may try to kill me with your hatefulness, but still like the air, I rise.’

When Will They Stop Attacking Black Sportswomen Bodies? by Cheryl Roberts

25 Apr

 

  

8cheryl roberts  in the rain forest in ghana

Cheryl Roberts (writer of the blog)

Is there no freedom away from misogyny, racism and sexist/thuggish male commentary and white male gaze, for black sportswomen. For how much longer must the bodies of black women in sport be attacked? Even when the black sportswoman is world and Olympic champion, when she’s world class fabulous,   fierce and achieving amazing feats on international sports stages, there is no reprieve from the attacks, especially from the white male supremacists.

 Yes, its not all men who attack black sportswomen and yes there are white men who applaud black sportswomen prowess. But the attacks on the black sportswoman, particularly her humanly developed body, her natural hair, her black skin are horrendous. They are consistent and have support from misogynists.

The misogyny is especially levelled and thrown at highly achieving black sportswomen like South Africa’s Caster Semenya and USA’s tennis champion Serena Williams and boxing champion Claressa Shields. There are many more black sportswomen who are attacked, whose bodies have racist misogynistic missiles and arrows shot at them.

 Who and what racial inheritance gives people, especially white women and men the right or authority to ridicule and define the black sportswoman? The amazing sports abilities and their subsequent achievements of the elite black sportswoman are not applauded by the misogynists, sexists and racists. But then again if you are all of these ‘ists’  (misogynist, sexist, racist), how can you see beyond your limited mind and thinking when you see people through blinkered views and a white male gaze emanating from a white white supremacist inheritance?

Achieving black sportswomen have to be consistently upping their game on the sports stage and punching down those who dare to attack their bodies. Caster Semenya, Serena Williams, Claressa Shields are always speaking out, slamming those who claim a black sportswoman’s body as their ownership.

 These black sportswomen are strong and fierce; they are also supported by communities of fierce women who use strength and power to take on the misogynists, racists and sexists, especially on social media. The black sportswoman is not quiet or saying something like ‘I will leave you in God’s hands’. They hit back with power and the community of voices supporting them roar loud, louder, loudest.

Look at how Serena Williams responded to tennis player Ilie Nastase when she told him ‘I am not afraid, unlike you. You see I am no coward’’,  said Serena.

Sports achievements for black women in sport, the world over, don’t come easily. The sport talent is there but the resources to assist and support their talent is rarely there. But the black sportswoman works hard at training, presses on with her sports ambitions. And then they explode on sports stages and arenas and sports fields. For some, this is too much to accept; after all, the media they consume and society they inhabit has told them that ‘white bodies’ are the norm and standard.

And here arrives the black sportswoman, at the top of her game and top of the world’s best. And then comes the attacks because after all they ain’t the white and fair skinned women that people are accustomed to accepting as winners and champions.

If its not about her body being ‘like a man’ and sometimes ‘like a monkey’, then its about her natural hair. The attacks don’t stop; its always someone having something to say.

But the black sportswoman doesn’t allow this to bring her down or suffocate them. They hit back with sports prowess. Caster Semenya is world and Olympic 800m champion, Serena Williams is the greatest tennis player ever, and Claressa Shields is Olympic boxing champion.

And the black sportswoman has power. The power of her blackness, laid down over the years by those black women who also had to fight back.

So we applaud and feel the power of our blackness when Serena Williams claps back for all black women (replying to misogynist Ilie Nastase) with Maya Angelou’s fierce words’: ‘Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? You may shoot me with your words…..you may try to kill me with your hatefulness, but still like the air, I rise.’

A Photographic Essay: My BlackSportswoman Lens By Cheryl Roberts

18 Apr

In my writings, my sports activism, my media documentation, I center black and working class women in sport, particularly South African women. Should you ask me why I focus on and make visible black women in sport when women struggle against gender discrimination in sport, I will remind you that black women suffer more and are marginalised and ignored much more than white women in sport because of the black woman’s skin colour, her gender and sexuality and her class position. I love to see women in sport triumph, but it gives me the most happiness when I see black women achieving against all the discrimination and struggle they must endure. These are some of the fabulous South African black women in sport that I have photographed (over the past 6 months). The black sportswoman’s story is in their picture that show’s their existence, survival, strength and triumph.

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Mandisa Williams: Springbok women’s rugby player

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Noni Tenge: World women’s boxing champion

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Zanele Situ: Paralympic champion and medallist

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Masabata Klaas and Ayabonga Khaka: South African international cricketers

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Veroeshka Grain: South African women’s rugby international player

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Zethu Myeki: South African international amateur golfer

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Dumisani Chauke: South African international netball coach

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Quanita Bobbs: South African international hockey player

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Thembi Kgatlana: South African football international

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Mmatshepo Modipane: South African international player

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Ilse Davids: south African international hockey player

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Caster Semenya; Olympic and world 800m champion

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Moseline Daniels: South African international cricketer

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Tamzin Thomas: South African international athlete

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Pumza Maweni: South African international netballer

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South Africa’s women’s beach volleyball international players

Swimming For Blackness, Against Whiteness In White-Dominated South African Swimming By Cheryl Roberts

29 Mar

The composition of SA swim teams are so white, you’d be forgiven for assuming that blacks ‘just can’t swim competitively’ nor ‘win SA titles and achieve international qualifying times’.   No black swimmer has yet represented South Africa at an Olympic Games; not during SA’s horrendous whites-only representation era or  post-apartheid South Africa although some black swimmers have represented South Africa at senior international swim events such as the world championship and continental swim champs.

Get this! Blacks can and do swim competitively in South Africa; they’ve been doing this for many decades. Black swimmers existed as anti-apartheid people in sport; they were the swimmers who played sport and fought for freedom in SA. Not only were they provincial and anti-apartheid national champions, they also achieved swim times comparable to and sometimes faster than advantaged white swimmers, all of whom didn’t care about or support the anti-apartheid sports struggle.

8cheryl roberts  in the rain forest in ghana

Cheryl Roberts (writer of the blog)

 

Over the past two years I’ve watched and documented the SA national senior swim champs in Durban and some provincial and national junior swim events. These events are very white, indeed: from the officials, to the competing swimmers, the parents and coaches. Are there blacks participating in these swim events? Yes,there are black swimmers, especially in the junior events. And some black parents are at these events and a few black coaches.

And there’s some superb emerging black junior swimmers, those with the talent to become world class swimmers. But will the junior swim talent of 15 year old girl swimmer, Khwezi Duma from Durban be nurtured and turned into world class swim prowess? Black junior girl swimmer, Khwezi Duma has already been identified by Swimming South Africa as  a swimmer to be recognised and selected for international competition. She has represented SA in junior and senior swim competition and is a leading swimmer in her age group category, recording amongst the best times at SA junior events. However, the junior black swimmer knows she must overcome the mental hurdle and believe she can win and be SA champion.

Swimming in South Africa is very white. Whiteness, white privilege and white arrogance dominates at national swim events in SA, coupled with white athlete competitiveness. At the swim events, the swimmers of all colours look friendly with each other. They compete against each other, cheer on their team mates of whatever colour, talk to each other in the warm up pool and seemingly look like a rainbow swimming family.

But looking deeper and outside of this assumed swimming rainbownism is the prevalence of whiteness galore and strangulation by whiteness and its accompanying white arrogance and domination.

I look out for the black swimmers, especially the girl swimmers because I center black girls and women in sport in my sport narratives and activism. I want to document black girls swimming and I want to show them winning and getting commendable times in the pool. I scan the electronic board indicating the line ups in the heats and here and there I see a black name. I get camera ready to document the black girl swimmer’s participation in SA swimming.

I’m looking out for Khwezi Duma, one of SA’s top girl age group swimmers. I notice Khwezi not performing as is expected of her; she’s finishing out of the final position in the heats. I ask her mother, one of the few black parents around at the championship, what’s up with Khwezi’s performances and she tells me Khwezi is struggling, just coming out of a terrible bout of flu.

Khwezi doesn’t show the strain or the pressure; she gets out the pool after the race as if its all okay. But I know Khwezi wants to prove her mettle; the performance she knows she can deliver. Its on a later day of the championship that Khwezi shows up. Its in the girls u18 50m backstroke (Khwezi’s specialist race), that she surges through the water at Durban’s aquatics centre and turns in a good seeded position. Khwezi gets a personal best and is seeded no.2 for the final, a heat performance that says she she should medal in the SA junior final. But Khwezi doesn’t medal; she finished 4th, just outside the medals.

Talent is one aspect to have in swimming, but its not enough. You’ve got to have the mental toughness to win. It’s not that black swimmers have inferior complexes or no confidence to believe they can win. The black girl swimmers are out there on their own, paving their personal swim journeys, struggling to win for themselves, their club and coach, parents and to show that black girls can be swimming champions.

There hasn’t been a black woman champion in post-apartheid SA. It’s tough out there not having black women swim champs to show you it can and has been achieved in another era of South African sport.

Much of the talented black junior swimmers around South Africa go to the ‘best’ coaches who happen to be white males. Once a coach coaches Olympic and world champions and international swimmers, then emerging swimmers are lured to the coach, so they too can achieve.

Khwezi Duma has been with some of SA’s best white male coaches in Durban and Johannesburg. She is presently with Seagulls in Durban, with head coach Graham Hill and former coach of Chad le Clos.

Can these white male coaches also bring out the talent in the black girl swimmers and take them onto the Olympic and world championship podiums? Are the black girl swimmers being looked after and developed s like any other talented swimmer? Most importantly, do white male coaches believe a black girl swimmer can be world class?

South Africa’s black junior girl swimmers are not only swimming against the clock but aginst white domination of SA swimming. They’re out there to usher in that moment when black girls and women become SA swim champions. For now, its black swimmers against the clock and SA swimming’s whiteness.