It was horrible. For just a few seconds I had a small insight into what life must be like for Caster Semenya. She had just broken her own meeting record in California...won comfortably and clearly. One of my roles as in field host at Diamond League meetings is to interview the Athletes.
Immediately after the race, she approaches me with a big smile and we say hello, as we always do. I get the green light, to start my post race interview. Time is tight with a busy programme of events, so it was always only ever going to be one question.
Positioned infield in the Californian sunshine in front of 8,128 track and field fans at the temporary home of Prefontaine Classic at Stanford University, I ask her a straight forward performance related question, about being happy to lower her own meeting record. As soon as the last syllable left my mouth, one guy in the crowd close by, started to boo loudly.
In that University Stadium, there was only, silence from the crowd and his solitary boo, trying to drown out her voice.
Face to face with her looking at me there was one slight squint of an eye, but she continued to answer the question clearly and confidently. In that moment, I glimpsed, a twang of pain as the boo was heard. My heart hurt.
I have never experienced that before. The guy got told to shut up by many, but it was done, his boo was heard loud and clear. I thanked her at the end of her answer and instinctively leaned in to give her a hug. I couldn’t even tell you what I said in her ear. I remember most things but cannot recall the words I said to her in an attempt to ease her pain.
In that moment, human instincts took over and I felt so sorry for her. A full on front row seat into her life.
I have no problem separating my thinking on Caster Semenya.
I like her, I have done since we first met several years ago in the US. She is always friendly, polite and conducted herself, as she continues to do in my opinion, well. I feel sorry for her and totally get why she continues to fight. She is talented and believes her place is on the track and in the races she is invited to compete in.
I don’t agree with this and it’s up to the Sport to prove she shouldn’t be in those races.
Should she fight, yes. Do I understand her fighting, yes.
I genuinely admire her for that.
I believe sport should be chromosome based.
Male / Female and whatever else is needed.
We are learning all the time and adaptions have to be made.
A colleague said last night, ‘Why shouldn’t the guy boo? She is making a mockery of the sport and shouldn’t be in it.’
It’s complicated of course but just be kind, because we are all people. Different in many ways, but all people.
Discuss, decide, fight and disagree, but be kind.
It’s the last thing I thought of when I went to bed last night and the first thing I thought of this morning and still now before I head back to the UK.
It upsets me that people can be so mean and hurtful. Hold conversations, listen and learn. Do not boo someone for just being themselves. For being the way they were born and wanting to be the best they can be.
Photo Credit: Matthew Quine