Former president Nelson Mandela Wednesday met track champion Caster Semenya and South Africa’s two other world athletics medallists, a day after they were given a rapturous welcome on their return home from Berlin.


Wearing Mandela Day T-shirts, 800-metre gold medallists Semenya and Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, along with long jump silver medallist Khotso Mokoena met Mandela at his offices in Houghton, Johannesburg, the Nelson Mandela Foundation said on Wednesday.

‘The three had been invited by Mr Mandela so that he could congratulate them on their success in the championships,’ the foundation said in a statement.

Semenya, who won the women’s 800m in the fastest time of the year, said she could not wait to tell her father about the experience as she had long wished to meet Mandela.

Mokoena described the meeting as ‘a great experience’ while men’s 800m winner Mulaudzi said ‘it was a great honour to come here and greet the great man.’

South Africans have rallied behind 18-year-old Semenya after the international athletics federation IAAF last week called for her to undergo a gender verification test.

President Jacob Zuma, who met the athletes on Tuesday after their arrival home, said at a later media briefing it was ‘wrong’ to suggest Semenya was not a woman. The government has written to the IAAF to voice its displeasure.

‘It is one thing to seek to ascertain whether or not an athlete has an unfair advantage over others, but it is another to publicly humiliate an honest, professional and competent athlete,’ Zuma said.


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