Sport SPORTS AND ART

Caster Semenya inspires a new generation of athletes

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Nike has launched ‘The birthplace of dreams’, a film that celebrates the life of decorated South African athlete, Caster Semenya. Caster is a South African middle-distance runner and 2016 Olympic gold medalist. She won gold in the women’s 800 meters at the 2009 World Championships with a time of 1:55.45. The film maps Caster’s journey from her hometown in Limpopo to becoming a professional athlete and running coach. Caster is well known for breaking records and in doing so has inspired the next generation of athletes to play more sports and achieve their goals but rarely shared her story in her words.

Narrated by the athlete herself, the film gives the audience an authentic look into Casters world and illustrates how her journey begun. The film starts in her hometown of Ga-Masehlong, a small village outside of Polokwane, in South Africa and before she dreamed of being an 800m athlete she played football. “I played under 14. Most people came to see me play, how I played because they knew that I was a girl. I was fast, I played a fast game,” says Semenya.

This is not Caster’s first appearance in a film. She went to Switzerland to fight against world athletics governing body the IAAF’s which proposed a rule to restrict testosterone levels in female runners and inspired a film on the subject. Measure of a Woman was created by award-winning Director and Producer Sara Blecher and Lwazi Manzi tells the story of Ntombi, a champion rower who is lesbian and has to face the challenges of what society deems a woman should look like. It has been modelled on Semenya’s story. The film recalls the very public humiliation that Semenya had to face when her gender was questioned by rival athletes and the world’s media.

The multiple gold medal winner realized her talent from an early age and this talent was nurtured by her family who she attributes most of her success to. “Positivity comes from where you’re coming from. How you’re raised, the love that you get from your family and their belief in you. If people believe in you, you’ll always be positive, you’ll be a believer,” says Semenya. The film shows Caster’s passion to instil a sense of belonging, family and aims to inspire the next generation of athletes.  Nike celebrates the emotion of sport and inspires athletes to defy convention though producing films which are inspired by the athlete’s lives. She continues to inspire athletes through the two films and participating in Nike initiatives which call out gender-based double standards.

Caster’s solid support structure and natural talent propelled the athlete into her track and field career where she has inspired the world. In 2018, Caster together with her wife, Violet and close friend, Koketso Mogapi, started her own development club, the Masai Athletics Club. The club operates in Pretoria and Soweto and aims to find young athletes on a grassroots level and developing that talent to become the next running stars. The club has over 60 young aspiring athletes competing in some of South Africa’s top running competitions.

Visit Nike News to watch “The Birthplace of Dreams”.

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