Wayde van Niekerk: Caster Semenya is fighting 'for a greater cause'
Wayde van Niekerk has backed fellow Olympic gold medallist Caster Semenya in her battle with the IAAF over female eligibility rules, saying "it goes beyond track and field".
The Olympic 400m champion told reporters on the sidelines of the SA championships that Semenya "is fighting for something" far greater.
"Caster is fighting for something beyond just track and field athletics - she is fighting for women in sports, in society and I respect her for that.
"I support the hard work and talent she has put into the sport," said Van Niekerk, who withdrew from the meet, fearing cold, wet conditions could threaten his recovery from a knee injury.
"With what she believes in and what she is dreaming of, I have got a lot of respect for her. I hope and pray that everything just goes from strength to strength for her."
Semenya, who has refused to discuss the battle with the world governing body, will learn her fate next week after legally challenging proposed changes to International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) female eligibility rules.
The global body wants female athletes with "differences of sexual development" (DSD) to keep testosterone levels below a prescribed level.
Semenya, picking up a rare 1,500m and 5,000m double at the championships, has now landed an impressive 17 SA titles - 15 of them in individual races from 400m to 5,000m - since her first in 2009.
Meanwhile, Tshepang Makhete ended the longest dynasty in SA athletics when he downed veteran Chris Harmse in the hammer throw.
Now he wants to surpass his mentor's SA record, claim the African mark and gun for success at the world championships and Olympics.
Tshepang, 23, had just been born when Harmse, 45, claimed the first of his 23 consecutive titles in 1996, though the old-timer had a couple of narrow escapes in the past couple of years.
Last year Harmse pulled victory out the bag with his final throw, but on Friday night Makhete went for an early kill, throwing his winning 72.25m on his third shy.
Harmse's best ended up being just 55cm further back, but the new king knew he had wrapped it up at the halfway mark of the six-throw final.
"We know Chris has a fatal throw in the last three throws, we just came up with a plan," said Makhete, almost not believing he had really won in his sixth senior SA championship.
He couldn't stop laughing with delight during his post-competition interviews.
- Additional reporting AFP