WATCH: Caster on love, Rio and playing for Banyana

24 April 2016 - 02:00 By BARENG-BATHO KORTJAAS

If Caster Semenya's life were a movie, the soundtrack would make for interesting listening.

Barry White's Rio De Janeiro would be her constant companion as she prepares to burn the track in the seaside city in Brazil, host of the Olympic Games in August.

I Found Love (When I Found You) by The Spinners could serve as an ode to her relationship with Violet Raseboya - "my everything" - whom she married in December last year.

It's Unbelievable by EMF would succinctly describe Semenya's phenomenal feat when she became the first person to grab triple gold in world leading times in the 400m, 800m and 1500m races all in one day at the South African National Athletics Championships in Stellenbosch last week.

"I didn't know at the time that it had never been done but when it was revealed to me, that's when I realised I'm doing something special.

"It is not only the Americans, Jamaicans and West Africans who can do this," said the 25-year-old Olympic medallist at North-West University in Potchefstroom, her training base and education fountain.

"It feels good to be back on track. I've been through a lot.

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"I just got married a few months ago. With the support I get from my training partners, my wife, coach, fellow South Africans and the support system at the university, there's no way you can't be happy."

And, added the second-year sports science student: "I'll graduate next year."

Semenya is glowing. Her eyes sparkle and her voice is full of life as she speaks openly and lovingly about the source of her happiness, Violet, who is also an athlete.

"We met a long time ago. I was about 15. We've been on and off. We decided to take things seriously two years ago, look up to our future and get married.

"Last year, when I told her I was ready to send my family to hers, she was happy, excited, she could not wait.

"We've been good friends. Relationships are all about a good friendship.

"But also I know marriage is not easy, especially when you are in a long-distance [one]. Like now I'm in Potch, she's in Pretoria. So it's not easy."

She wears a brown leather bracelet engraved with the words "I love you Caster", a gift that Violet gave her in 2014.

"It symbolises her love for me. It's my lucky charm, I wear it all the time. It makes me feel like I take her with me everywhere I go," said Semenya.

"She means everything to me. She means the world and she's the best thing that ever happened to me, because she supports me in everything I do. She's the one who encouraged me to go to school, to train hard, to look up to my future.

"It is life, man. There are some things you cannot explain. But obviously if you've had deep feelings for someone you'll understand what I'm saying."

Just as Semenya got into her stride on her love for Violet, she excused herself from the interview to take a call: "It's my wife, she has the flu."

And while Violet and athletics are her first loves, Semenya has ambitions as well to play for the national women's soccer team and join the army.

"Growing up, I wanted to play football. I was a centre back. I have ambitions to play for Banyana Banyana, at 40. I'm strong from what I do in the gym.

"The other day I was playing against boys in my brother's team. They were complaining. No one could get the ball away from me.

"I still want to be a soldier. I still like the army. Maybe it's because I like guns. Not to shoot people. If I buy a gun I'd keep it far away from me. If I had it I'd go to the shooting range just to relax."

Semenya, who shot to stardom when she won a gold medal at the World Championships in Berlin in 2009, said she had the full support of her family in everything she did.

Her father, she said, "does the garden back home in Limpopo with a permanent smile on his face because of what I did last weekend".

With the Rio Olympics just more than three months away, hip-hop head Semenya counts local artists Emtee, HHP, Tuks and Fifi Cooper as well as US rappers Rick Ross and JayZ among her favourites. Now she has Eminem's hit Not Afraid buzzing in her head.

 

"I'm not afraid of anybody. I've been through a slump because I dislocated my knee. I finished stone last in the semifinals in Beijing. I gained weight. [But then] I watched Wayde van Niekerk do his thing and got inspired.

"Now I'm back with a bang. I just want to win gold. Then I will say I've accomplished my mission. Every athlete's dream is to win gold medals. If I walk out of Rio with gold then it's OK, I know I can look into other things. The main target is to go to Rio and win a gold medal.

"Only 800 specifically. That's what I do. I don't want to mess up my things.

"I'll do 400 and 800 at the Commonwealth Games and the 1500 maybe at the Tokyo Olympics when I'm 29."

Roll on Rio, the golden girl of South African athletics is raring to go.

bbk@sundaytimes.co.za

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