'If I can win, so can they': Semenya goes the extra mile to motivate Banyana

On Wednesday, on the eve of another tough test of their considerable talent and skill, Banyana Banyana was paid a visit by none other than Semenya herself.

South African Olympic champion Caster Semenya with Banyana Banyana in France on 12 June 2019. Picture: @Banyana_Banyana/Twitter

CAPE TOWN - It’s fair to say Caster Semenya knows a thing or two about winning. And she knows how to fight when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds.

On Wednesday, on the eve of another tough test of their considerable talent and skill, Banyana Banyana was paid a visit by none other than Semenya herself.

Fresh from her victory in the 2000m at the European Outdoor Classic meeting in Montreuil, France, the two-time Olympic champion came to show her support for her compatriots in Paris, the city of love.

She came with words of encouragement for coach Desiree Ellis and her players. Words they will draw on as they look to put Saturday’s painful 3-1 loss to Spain behind them and prepare to face the might of China on Thursday.

"If I can win, so can they‚” said Semenya. “They must just be strong, and work as a team. Communication is very important. We might have lost our last game, but we’ve learnt from it. We just need to go out there and shine as a team. The most important thing is to work together.”

Banyana holds a special place for Semenya. She would have taken up football had she not excelled at athletics, and would jump at the opportunity to play football one day.

Banyana haven’t won a match in seven months, a 2-0 win over Mali in the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations last year was the last time they tasted victory.

China are ranked 16th in the world to Banyana’s 49th and the gulf between the two teams represents a giant hurdle, but Semenya has a different message for the national team.

“We appreciate them, and we support them every step of the way. We believe we’ll do well tomorrow,” Semenya said.

Semenya’s emphatic victory over 2,000 metres was another winning performance in the midst of her fight for her career.

New IAAF rules force women with higher than normal male hormone levels to artificially lower the amount of testosterone in their bodies, if they are to compete in races over distances of 400m to the mile.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport last month rejected Semenya's challenge against the new regulations.

However, she appealed to the Swiss federal supreme court which temporarily suspended the IAAF rules last week, until a further hearing can take place.

For Banyana, the weight of expectation may become a drag in games to come; the longer they go without a win.

The cynic would have said that they couldn’t have expected to beat Spain and China in the first place. And Germany, the number two ranked team in the world are still waiting. Forget the Group of Death. Save this group for the afterlife. How is this even fair?

“The Spanish game was really hard, and the Chinese game is going to be even harder. The technical team has done a great job in terms of not running us into the ground and allowing us to break fresh. We’re still working hard, but we’re working smart,” said striker Ode Fulutudilu.

Sometimes life isn’t fair, and the rules and regulations don’t always make sense. No one knows that better than Semenya, but you still have to find a way to win.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)