The final Team South Africa contingent received a rousing welcome as they emerged through the arrivals gate at OR Tambo international airport, after landing back on African soil from their best-ever Olympic Games result since readmission to international to sport.
“To Team SA and our medallists, there are no words to describe the joy you have brought to the country! It doesn’t matter where you come from, you can be like Caster Semenya and succeed,” says Fikile Mbalula, Sport and Recreation Minister.
Women’s 800m silver medallist Semenya was a huge crowd favourite after her sensational silver medal in the Women’s 800m final, the only Athletics medal won for SA in London. She also had a special person waiting for her at arrivals, her grandmother, who beamed with pride.
Semenya and women’s K1 500m bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley posed with their medals along with South Africa’s other medal winners, and both received cheques made out to them after their exemplary performances at the iconic London 2012 Olympic Games.
Hartley won a Bronze in the Women’s Kayaking K1 500m straight final, becoming the first South Africa woman to medal in canoeing at an Olympic Games. Earlier Hartley tweeted how exited she was to be coming back home, saying “I am still loving reading through all my messages on twitter and Facebook, they are all wonderful! Thank you a million times over!”
The 2012 Olympic class brought home a total of 6 medals, including three gold, two silver and one bronze, bettering the 5 won in Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000, and equalling the six won at Athens 2004.
The pride for women’s sport is that South Africa won two medals at the London Games, an achievement not reached since Penny Heyns won bronze in the women’s 100m Breaststroke, and Hestrie Cloete-Storbeck won Silver in the Women’s High Jump, in Sydney 2000.
Responding to the criticism of the way that she ran her race, Caster Semenya said: “People who say I didn’t try my best know nothing about athletics, or what we go through. I know I did my best.”