What is the ultimate difference between a man and a woman?
A REPORTER AT LARGE
Sports, sex, and the case of Caster Semenya.
by Ariel Levy
NOVEMBER 30, 2009
hen people in South Africa say “Limpopo,” they mean the middle of nowhere. They are referring to the northernmost
province of the country, along the border with Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique, where few people have cars
or running water or opportunities for greatness. The members of the Moletjie Athletics Club, who live throughout the area in
villages of small brick houses and mud-and-dung huts, have high hopes nonetheless.
One day in late September, twenty teen-age athletes gathered for practice on a dirt road in front of Rametlwana Lower
Primary School, after walking half an hour through yellow cornfields from their homes, to meet their coach, Jeremiah
Mokaba. The school’s track is not graded, and donkeys and goats kept walking across it to graze on the new grass that was
sprouting as the South African winter gave way to spring. “During the rainy season, we can’t train,” said Mokaba, a short
man wearing a brown corduroy jacket with a golden Zion Christian Church pin on the lapel. “We have nowhere to go inside.”
For cross-country, Mokaba and his co-coach, Phineas Sako, train their runners in the miles of bush that spread out behind
the track, toward the mountains in the distance. The land is webbed with brambles, and the thorns are a serious problem for
the athletes, who train barefoot. “They run on loose stones, scraping them, making a wound, making a scar,” Sako, a tall, bald
man with rheumy eyes and a big gap between his two front teeth, said. “We can’t stop and say we don’t have running shoes,
because we don’t have money. The parents don’t have money. So what must we do? We just go on.”
The athletes and their coaches apologized for not having a clubhouse in which to serve tea. They didn’t like talking out in
the wind and the dust. There was music playing down the road at a brick-front bar, and chickens squawking in people’s front
yards, where they are kept in enclosures made out of tree branches. “The most disadvantaged rural area,” Sako said, laughing