Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
By Aaron Maasho
It is not hard to notice Haile Gebrselassie’s huge popularity in Ethiopia. It emanates from pride over his illustrious career that saw him break 27 world records, as much as from who he is when not running.
With his ever-present smile and sarcastic quips, “The Emperor” — as he is affectionately known — has never shied away from charity work, as well as providing hundreds of jobs to impoverished locals in his numerous business ventures.
Having spent the vast part of his 20-year career on the track, Gebrselassie switched to the marathon and has never displayed signs of weakening, despite his 37 years.
Until this month, that is, when the wealthy athlete unexpectedly announced his retirement after a knee injury forced him to pull out of the New York marathon.
She was greeted by headlines from the country’s newspapers, expressing collective national pride for her achievement. “Welcome home, Caster, our champ. Caster, this nation is proud of you and we stand behind you, from Cape Town to Musina.”, screamed the Johannesburg-based The Times Newspaper.
Eighteen-year-old Mokgadi ‘Caster’ Semenya is being celebrated as a national hero in South Africa after winning the 800 metres at the World Athletics Championships, but the decision by international athletics officials to order a gender verification test has stirred deep anger – and brought accusations of prejudice against the country and the continent.
Many in South Africa feel a victory by their talented young athlete is being tarnished by bad losers and a world all too ready to mock. Sensitivities to prejudice are never far from the surface in the country where apartheid white minority rule ended just 15 years ago.