Women’s month: Four South African women who have won Olympic gold

In August, Women's month around South Africa, we celebrate the women who have claimed gold medals at the Olympics.

Women’s month: Four South African women who have won Olympic gold

Women’s Month: Two ladies are responsible for bringing home four of South Africa’s ten gold medals since being welcomed back into the Olympic family in 1992.

In August, Women’s month around South Africa, we celebrate the women who have claimed gold medals at the Olympics.

 Women’s month – Four golden women

Athletics and swimming are the disciplines that have brought in all the Olympic gold medals won by South African women.

Esther Brand 1952 in Helsinki, High jump

Women’s month: Esther Brand, representing South Africa, wins the women’s high jump. Photo: Still from Finnish Olympic Film. This image is in the public domain.

Esther Brand missed out on the best years of her athletic career due to the Second World War but won gold at the 1952 games in Helsinki, Finland.

Brand also competed in the discus competition finishing in 20th place. 

She equalled the high jump world record in 1941, clearing a height of 1.66 metres.

Brand passed away at the age of 92 in 2015 after suffering a fall.

Joan Harrison 1952 in Helsinki 100 metre backstroke

Women's Month
Women’s Month: Press Photo Auckland New Zealand swimmer Joan Harrison in pool.

The second woman to win Olympic gold just a short time after Brand had taken the first, Joan Harrison swam to gold in the 100 metre backstroke.

A swimming prodigy who wowed the 1950 British Empire Games at the age of just 14, she would win Olympic gold while still a teenager.

In 1982 Harrison was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

At 84 she is one of the oldest living South African Olympic gold medallists.

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Penny Heyns 1996 in Atlanta 100 metre and 200 metre breaststroke

Women’s month: Penny Heyns wins gold at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996. Photo: AFP.

Penny Heyns remains the only South African to win two Olympic gold medals at the same games dominating the 100 and 200 metre breastroke events at the Centennial games in Atlanta.

At the first Olympics after the historic 1994 elections, Heyns gave South Africans plenty to be proud of with her performances. Atlanta was her second games after she was the youngest member of the South African Olympic team at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.

Heyns was the first woman ever to win both the 100 and 200 metre breaststroke golds at an Olympic Games, and she also broke the world record for the shorter distance during qualifying for the final.

She would attend her third games in 2000, winning a bronze medal in the 100 metre breaststroke.

Caster Semenya 2012 in London 800 metres and 2016 in Rio 800 metres

caster semenya
Caster Semenya, Francine Niyonsaba and Margaret Wambui at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

Caster Semenya became the only South African woman to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals in the same discipline when she dominated the field at the Rio Olympics even if we didn’t know she had done it at the time.

Semenya’s first gold medal was awarded after the fact when Russian runner Mariya Savinova was stripped of her results after being found guilty of doping in 2017.

Regulations slammed as discriminatory by the World Health Organisation, will prevent Semenya from competing for a third 800 metre gold unless she submits to taking testosterone limiting medication.

Semenya ruled the women’s 800 metres race with an iron first for nearly a decade and she hopes to qualify for the 200 metre sprint at the Tokyo Games.

The runner also has three IAAF World Championship golds to her name.

Women’s month
Source : The South African