Semenya named Team SA flag bearer
19 July 2012
Caster Semenya, the 800 metres world champion in 2009, was named Team South Africa's official flag bearer for the 2012 London Olympic Games at a farewell banquet for the team in Johannesburg on Wednesday night.
Semenya, who was not present at the farewell because she is preparing for Friday's Diamond League meeting in Monaco, her final race before the Olympics, accepted the honour in a recorded message.
"It's such a privilege for me to do such a big thing like that," she said. "To carry the flag for the team, it's such a big thing."
Breaststroke star Cameron van der Burgh, who carried the South African flag at the 2010 commonwealth Games, Khotso Mokoena, who won silver in the long jump at the Beijing Olympic Games, and double amputee 400 metres runner Oscar Pistorius were reportedly also considered for the honour.
The 21-year-old Semenya will lead the 125-member South African team, which leaves for the Games on Thursday, at the opening ceremony in London on 27 July.
Born in the tiny village of GaMasehlong in Limpopo Province, Semenya won the 800m title at the 2009 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Berlin, Germany in a time of 1:55.45.
More recently, she powered her way to a silver medal at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, despite struggling with injury for much of the year.
"Caster is an absolute role model for all sportsmen and women in South Africa," South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) president Gideon Sam said on Wednesday.
"She's proved herself to be an absolute inspiration in the face of adversity, and we are sure that this inspiration will rub off on each and every member of the Olympic squad."
Semenya succeeds Natalie du Toit, who led the team in Beijing, as Team South Africa's flag bearer. Uniquely, Du Toit was also the flag bearer for Paralympic Team South Africa.
The team's final banquet before London was celebrated in style, with numerous top class entertainment acts, including trapeze artists, opera singers and violinists.
Many of South Africa's top sports stars, including golfer Ernie Els and football great Lucas Radebe, had inspirational messages of support for the London-bound athletes.
Sam took a captive audience through South Africa's Olympic history since re-admission in 1992 and left them in no doubt that the 2012 team is well-prepared and ready for the next Olympic leap upwards in London.
"The wheels definitely came off in Beijing, where Khotso's [Mokoena's] silver was our only meda, but we have learnt a lot and put in an awful amount of work since 2008 to make sure that won't happen again," Sam said.
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