South Africa will welcome its sporting heroes back on home soil this morning, as they return from the 2016 Rio Olympic Games – and among them will be gold medallists Caster Semenya and Wayde van Niekerk.
Semenya won the 800m title and has broken her own national record with a time of 55.28 seconds, while Van Niekerk spun a world-record finish in the 400m race at 43.03 seconds. He made history by breaking the 17-year-old world record set by Michael Johnson at 43.18. Swimmer Chad le Clos also scooped two silver medals for the 200m freestyle and 100m butterfly.
Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula has called on South Africans to make their way to the International Arrivals terminal at OR Tambo International Airport at 7am, where the athletes are due to arrive. Semenya, under the spotlight recently due to transgender controversies over her hyperandrogenism, received a wave of support on social media from South Africans prior to her run.
Speaking about his visit to Semenya at the Athletes Village in Rio, Mbalula said she indicated she was motivated by the support. Equally, Van Niekerk’s performance put South Africa on the global map “by bringing us gold and also setting up this extraordinary record finish”, said the sports ministry. “His performance has been sensational.”