PRETORIA, July 20 (NNN-SANEWS) -- Former world track champion Caster Semenya has been chosen as South Africa's official flag bearer at the opening of the 2012 Olympic Games in London next week.
Semenya, 21, will lead the pride of South African sport at the opening ceremony in London on July 27. The announcement was made at Team South Africa's's glittering farewell banquet in Sandton, Johannesburg, Wednesday night.
Born in the tiny village of Ga-Masehlong in Limpopo Province, Semenya won the women's 800m title at the 2009 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Berlin in 2009. More recently, she powered her way to a silver medal at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.
South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) President Gideon Sam said: "Caster is an absolute role model for all sportsmen and women in South Africa. She's proved herself to be an absolute inspiration in the face of adversity and we are sure that this inspiration will rub off on each and every member of the Olympic squad."
In Beijing, the flag bearer was Natalie du Toit, who performed the duty at both the Olympics and Paralympics and became the first woman to carry the flag at both the Olympics and Paralympics.
Sam took a captive audience through South Africa's Olympic history since re-admission in 1992 and left them in no doubt that this team is well-prepared and ready for the next Olympic leap upwards in London. "The wheels definitely came off in Beijing where Khotso [Mokoena's] silver was our only medal, but we have learnt a lot and put in an awful amount of work since 2008 to make sure that won't happen again," he said.
Team SA flew off to London later Wednesday with their locally branded South African Airways (SAA) Airbus 340-300 aircraft, which was proudly paraded in front of the Team SA at Johannesburg's OR Tambo Airport.
Speaking at the banquet, Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba said to the Olympians: "Go out there to conquer the world and bring back the medals. We have given this plane the name Siyanqoba (we conquer)."
SAA Board chairperson Cheryl Carolus said: "We're ready and eager to take Team SA to battle and bring the team home with the medals."
Meanwhile, the Cabinet has wished Team SA well and called on all South Africans to support the country's Olympians at the upcoming 2012 London Olympic Games.
The team of 125 athletes (67 male and 58 female) is accompanied by 46 officials serving in various wide-ranging categories in each sport code.
"The Cabinet wishes our national teams well and calls on all South Africans to support Team South Africa during the 2012 London Olympic Games from 27 July to 12 August 2012, as well as our national cricket team (Proteas) who are touring England until 12 September 2012," said Cabinet spokesperson Jimmy Manyi on Thursday.
Last week, President Jacob Zuma bade the Olympians farewell and encouraged the Olympians to bring home many medals for former President Nelson Mandela, who celebrated his 94th birthday on Wednesday.
The president also echoed and reiterated the target of 12 medals set for Team SA by Sam.
"We want at least 12 medals, nothing less. Anything beyond 12 medals would be a bonus. If we win, it means Africa has won. We are a winning nation and I'm sure that you will win," he said.