The Face of Tenacity

Regardless of which side of the Caster Semenya debate you find yourself, we can surely unite on one thing; she has shown us the very definition of tenacity. 

The court of arbitration for Sport’s ruling last week, means that she will have to take testosterone-reducing medication if she wishes to continue competing on the international stage. A South African story of guts to glory, Caster has forever competed under a cloud of controversy. Her gender, biological make up, hormone levels and chromosomes have been the subject of continuous debate and ridicule, from armchair experts and fellow athletes, to medical professionals. She has fought to redefine the image of woman in professional sports, and never once has she let her dignity or performance be swayed.

On Friday, as the future of her career lay in pieces due to the court’s ruling, Caster powered to victory in the Doha leg of the IAAF Diamond League winning the 800m event just 0.6 seconds away
from her personal best time. “Life is fantastic,” she said during post-race interviews, denying rumours she would retire. “I want to inspire the world”.

In professional sports, the term Big Match Temperament (BMT) is bandied about. It is said to be the make or break of talented and dedicated sports professionals. It is the secret sauce that enables a
pro tennis player to keep going at peak performance for yet another set, or the ability to shut the world out as a key point is played. Tenacity is BMT, focus and utter commitment when the playing field is not in your favour. The ability to rise above when you cannot even see how high you need to rise.

“Tenacity – the reward for overpowering the demons that exhaust your mind”- Peter Stephens, Ironman and Freedom Challenge finisher

“Tenacity is the ability to grind out a victory, even a small personal one. I always think of the mountaineer that cut off his own arm. We often find out limits under extreme (adverse) conditions.” – Paul Diedericks, endurance runner

“Tenacity is persistent determination to continue to persevere for a specific purpose, despite hardship, repeatable obstacles or on-going setbacks. It’s having inner strength and quiet
confidence to reach your goal. Determination to keep pursing it, in spite of perceived failure; a champion mind-set.” – Lesyl Potgieter, triathlete

As ultra-trail season hits our calendars and we prepare to do battle with our own demons, a champion mind-set becomes a key element of our personal arsenal. There is no end to the number of challenges that await us during hours of gruelling trail terrain. The best among us know exactly how to tune out the sceptics, and their inner critics. You don’t have to be Tiger Woods making an epic comeback, or Dale Steyn fighting injury weeks prior to the World Cup, or Caster Semenya fighting all odds, to apply this way of training and racing.

You’ve just got to learn to rise above.

Words: Kim Stephens