Caster's return – A flashback

The last time Caster Semenya returned home victorious was after the Berlin world championships in 2009. This is what I wrote then. Let’s hope it goes a little better this time around.
While the state-funded broadcaster was showing a repeat of 7de Laan on Tuesday morning, was live at OR Tambo International Airport for the return of teenage mutant ninja athlete, Caster Semenya, and her muscle-bound mates.
The broadcast was live in much the same way that a snapped power cable thrashing about on the ground is live. The cameraman appeared to be having some sort of seizure and reporter Iman Rappetti could hardly be heard above the bleating of vuvuzelas and someone from the ANC Women’s League on a makeshift stage screaming hysterically. “Viva Caster Semenya viva!” she screeched. “Viva the rest of the team whose names I don’t know or even what events they participated in, viva!”
Given the uproar, a tourist might have mistaken our athletes for a team of negotiators back from securing a lasting peace in the Middle East. A reception of this magnitude surely couldn’t be for a bunch of youngsters who run, jump and throw stuff better than the rest of us.
Despite the team’s sweep of two gold medals in Berlin, the truth is that very few people would have been at the airport at all if the IAAF hadn’t implied that our star athlete was an androgynous alien simply because she doesn’t need a bra and can run the 800m in nine seconds flat.
Mercifully, lost their sound link for a few minutes. I knew what Tom Hanks must have felt like right after that shell exploded next to him in Saving Private Ryan. There were no dismembered corpses in this tableau, but Saving Caster Semenya was turning into a movie that, frighteningly, had no discernible genre. “Maybe it should go for genre testing,” I said to the cat. The cat made it clear that it couldn’t care less.
The ANC Youth League’s idiot savant, Julius Malema, was handed the microphone and the nation braced itself. “Down with racism, down!” he shouted. “Caster Semenya and Nelson Mandela make us proud!” he shouted. Of course they do. After all, Mandela spent 27 years in jail because he dared to take a stand against the inhuman policy of gender verification. Pity he couldn’t run like Caster otherwise he might never have been caught.
Then the idiot savant hit his stride. “Where are the white South Africans to welcome Caster? If it was rugby they would be here.” I may be wrong, but at 11am on a Tuesday there was an outside chance that most of them were at work. Or in Perth.
Before he was darted with a tranquiliser gun, Malema had a few words for the imperialist counter-revolutionary press. “The white-controlled media are wrong. She is female,” he babbled..
Then the Minister of Women took the stage. “Down with the IAAF, down!” shouted the human vuvuzela. “We will fight and walk together with Caster.” It’s a good thing she said “walk” because from where I sat, with my gut spilling over the top of my tracksuit pants, it didn’t look as if she could run if a lion were after her.
Then the circus moved off for a press conference. I opened another beer and, exhausted by the effort, slumped back onto the couch. Caster was flanked by a curious mixture of politicians, sports administrators, athletes and at least one convicted criminal.
The only person who failed to urge the masses to rise up against the injustices perpetrated against Caster – choosing instead to point out that sport had the capacity to unite people – was SASCOC president Gideon Sam. He ought to be ashamed of himself.
With the anaesthetic wearing off, and becoming more idiot and less savant by the second, Malema lunged for the microphone and said, “One of the people who complained to IAAF is a media institution operating in South Africa.” He demanded to know “where is patriotism”.
“Here I am,” said a Zimbabwean journalist at the back. Malema’s bodyguard moved quickly to escort Patriotism from the press conference.
The ANC Women’s League representative thanked Caster’s parents for “giving us this very pretty girl”. Caster demurely lowered her eyes, flexed her deltoids and growled softly. Then the rep said she wasn’t going to say much more “because mama is here”. Mama turned out to be Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who apparently prefers to do all the talking herself.
“I am here representing my country,” said Winnie, for the benefit of everyone wondering what she was doing at a press conference for athletes. “I align myself with everything Malema has said. The only whites here are journalists.” White viewers went to put the kettle on and check that their passports were valid.
Then Gideon Sam placed a garland of flowers around Caster’s neck. His leaning in for a kiss must rate as the second most awkward moment in sporting history, the first being at the 1972 Munich Olympics when the Israeli team opened their door expecting a pizza delivery man and instead got Black September.
Athletics SA boss Leonard Chuene, a charming man with the emotional intelligence of a five year old, foamed and frothed like a salted snail. I couldn’t understand a word. To his credit, though, he did admit that English was his fourth language, the first three being Pedi.
Then they were off to visit the president. I opened another beer and told the cat it was a bit odd that not one journalist had asked Caster a direct question. Perhaps they had been warned. The cat nodded. Then again, the cat does a lot of nodding.

Paddling in the shallow end of the gene pool

Our very own doe-eyed Merman, Chad le Clos, goes up against his arch-rival Michael Phelps in the Rio Olympics today. Here’s something I wrote about the Baltimore Bullet a few years ago.


THAT poor, dumb brute, Michael Phelps. He never stood a chance. He hasn’t stopped swimming since his mother was talked into having a water birth in 1985. He has won 14 Olympic gold medals and holds seven world records. As if that’s not enough, just months after winning Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year award, he walked off with High Times magazine Bong Smoker of the Year award. Is there nothing this man cannot achieve?

Who among us can forget that image of our hero at the Beijing Olympics after winning the 100m butterfly, his long face – freakishly elongated after having to doggy paddle down the birth canal and then back stroke to the surface of his parents’ jacuzzi in Baltimore 23 years earlier – lit up with the realisation that he is the world’s fastest swimmer?

I can. I forgot that image the moment it flitted across my television screen. A highly trained world class athlete who does nothing but swim and who keeps on winning swimming races? Outrageous. Unthinkable.

The image that does stick in my mind, though, is the photograph of the human dolphin at a party near the University of South Carolina, his piscine mouth wrapped tightly around the end of a cylindrical device that could have been a plastic didgeridoo but instead turned out to be a $2 bong packed with primo marijuana.

The photograph, taken by a student with a bright future in the DEA, was published in Britain by the News of the World, a tabloid edited by a misshapen creature whose presence is preceded by the sound of weeping children and the overpowering smell of sulphur.

Oh. My. God. Michael Phelps gets high. No wonder he managed to … er, hang on. Smoking anything at all isn’t likely to enhance lung capacity, is it? If it did, half of Jamaica would be swimming off to Miami every weekend.

The cry went up. Michael Phelps is setting a bad example. Oh, fuck off. He’s not. If you look at the picture closely, you will notice that he has a textbook grip on the bong in question. This is a man who knows what he is doing.

I suspect that the mole who leaked the photograph did so because he never got a chance to have a hit. He brought the last of his stash to the party, primed the bong and then made the mistake of asking Michael to bust it. Possessing lungs bigger than the Hindenburg, Michael only stopped inhaling when the host’s Chihuahua was sucked into the bowl. His exhalation looked like an Australian wildfire.

Michael apparently had several health scares after an unusual growth spurt at school. He hit the 2m mark in grade nine. What the hell was his mother putting in his lunch? It certainly wasn’t dope cookies because I went to high school with boys who were cannabis fiends and when I bump into them today they are so small that I easily step right over them. Okay, so it was just this one guy. And he might have been unconscious. But still.

I suspect that Michael’s mother fed him on Kellogg’s, a nutritious breakfast cereal that helped turn him into a well-rounded kid afflicted with nothing more serious than Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Michael loved Kellogg’s but Kellogg’s loved Michael even more when they became his sponsor and he started getting super hyperactive in the freestyle events.

But then Michael got distracted by a passing bong, as is the wont of the attention deficit, and Kellogg’s just plain cold turkey dropped him. “We didn’t do it,” said a company spokesman. “Sugar, yes. Artificial flavourants, yes. Liver-curdling colouring, yes. Cannabis? No way, José.”

Michael is also sponsored by Subway, a company with more than 30 000 restaurants in nearly 90 countries. Right now, as we speak, the chain is promoting a hefty twelve inches of heart-stopping cholesterol on a roll for only $5.

“Hey, folks. I’m Michael Phelps and damn, have I got the munchies! Give me four of them fabulous foot-longs!”

But, no. Instead of taking advantage of the situation, Subway said, “We are disappointed in his behaviour, but we accept his apology and he remains in our plans.”

Michael, if you’re reading this, I would advise you to dump those mealy-mouthed weasels over at Subway. You might not be averse to putting twelve inches of something else in your mouth, but anyone who has seen you in a Speedo knows you don’t eat that rubbish.

The only people responding to this global crisis in a rational manner, apart from 300 million marijuana smokers, are Michael’s third biggest sponsors, Swiss watchmakers Omega. And not just because their country’s banks have tons of Nazi gold and Cosa Nostra cash in their vaults, either. Geneva is controlled by billionaire smack junkies and crack whores who can’t even swim, but, like Michael, they can speak French. Which makes all the difference in the world.

Thanks to his heinous abuse of narcotics, Phelps now has nearly two million fans on Facebook, not all of whom are gay. The messages are overwhelmingly supportive. Like this one, “I think the sandal with Plelps is ridicudiculous , the media is blowwing it out of proportion … people are quick to judge before looking at all of his acomplishemeds in a shor time he gave us the hights honor any olypian has ever had ,there is much bigger curropiton in DC this was only pot for christ sake we all have skeletons in our coloset.”

Okay, so marijuana might not be good for everyone.