JOHANNESBURG – Even though Caster Semenya can run in major track meets now, she’s wondering if she can afford to.
A controversial gender test and the ensuing 11-month layoff from competition have done more than keep the 800-meter world champion off the track. Despite being cleared to race by the IAAF, Semenya can’t find a sponsor “because of the negative publicity,” says her manager, Tshepo Seema.
Semenya is struggling to pay for her running. She’s resorted to a cell phone texting campaign to raise money, and has even accepted help from two young South Africans, who say they “rallied a few friends on Facebook” to help her get financial backing.
Semenya, now 19, became the first black South African woman to win gold at a world championships when she triumphed in Berlin in August 2009. After undergoing now infamous gender tests, she was welcomed as a national hero on her return to South Africa and dubbed the country’s “Golden Girl.”
But the world champion still cannot find anyone to endorse her.
“We have been to various companies, motor companies, cell phone companies, restaurant chains, a whole range of companies,” Seema told The Associated Press, “but we can’t get sponsorship because of the negative publicity in the last couple of months. It’s not good for Caster.”