Page last updated at 09:59 GMT, Friday, 21 August 2009 10:59 UK

'We know Semenya is a girl'

Caster Semenya's sister Muriel with some of her medals
Caster Semenya's family is proud of her achievements

By Jonah Fisher
BBC News, Masehlong

In Caster Semenya's remote home village of Masehlong in northern South Africa, people have no doubt about the gender of the new 800m world champion.

The first comment came before we had got out of the car.

"Caster's a woman," a middle-aged lady called out with a smile. "We know it here," she continued.

Several thousand people live here - but with the action from Berlin only available on satellite television, the residents have been cramming into a handful of lucky houses to see Ms Semenya run.

"When she won we danced like we could grab the moon and bring it down," local councillor Alphius Makogobe Mpati recounts with a twinkle in his eye.

"We are so proud of her here."

Dorcus Semenya: "It's my girl... I gave birth to that girl"

The compound Ms Semenya shares with her parents, brother and five sisters is on the main dirt street.

Her family also produced her birth certificate, which unambiguously classifies her as female.

Success has come quickly for the runner and the three buildings - one a thatched dome - are no different from any of the others in Masehlong, where she was raised.

Electricity has been recently provided but water comes from a communal tap several hundred metres away.

Delicate question

In the street just outside a group of women is discussing the latest edition of the tabloid newspaper The Daily Sun.

Caster Semenya's birth certificate
Her birth certificate is unambiguous

It is not sympathetic.

Prove You Are Not A Boy is the headline, alongside a picture of Ms Semenya after she won gold - sitting with her legs apart.

"Go and tell the media that you are liars," one woman said.

"We won't buy your newspapers. We should be proud of her because she is South African but right now they are demolishing her."

Her mother Dorcus Semenya is training to be a care worker.

'No doubt'

So we met up with her 65km (40 miles) away on the outskirts of the regional capital Polokwane.

She is apparently unfazed by the controversy - she smiled and laughed as I tried to delicately get to the bottom of it.


"I've no doubt about what I see. It's my girl," she says.

"She comes from me. I gave birth to that girl, she came from my womb."

The other women at the training centre were more upset.

"The problem is they're jealous because she's South African and a black woman," one said.

Another, a neighbour of the Semenyas, drew a roar of laughter from the centre.

"She played with my girl. I've got no doubts. She wears panties."

Back in Masehlong - a team-mate of hers from the village football team was explaining her value to the (otherwise all-male) side.

"She was our number seven - the striker and she was so quick," said cattle herder Phillip Ponyane Rammabi.

"She'd score two goals every game."

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