• South African javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen won silver at Rio. (Mark Ralston, Getty Images, AFP)Source: Mark Ralston, Getty Images, AFP
South African javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen won a silver medal and made her country proud, despite facing continued homophobic abuse from her own family.
Shami Sivasubramanian

22 Aug 2016 - 4:25 PM  UPDATED 22 Aug 2016 - 4:25 PM

At 32-years-old, South African javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen has made her Olympic dreams come true. Last Thursday, she won the silver medal in the women’s event with a throw of 64.92 metres.

It’s an achievement that would make most parents proud of their daughter. However, for Viljoen it is overcast by her family’s disapproval of her sexual orientation. 

Earlier in the year, the Olympian penned a Facebook post (now deleted) outlining the homophobic violence and physical abuse she has faced at the hand of her brother and father.

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“God help me… My brother has just lifted his hands to me again… [and] slapped me through the face,” she wrote, later describing an altercation with her father as “hell”.

In spite of her hardship, Viljoen believes it is important to share her story, in order to offer strength and solidarity to others in similar situations.

She said that she was "speaking out for every person out there who is being broken emotionally or physically over who they love”.

“I will fight for you till my hands are stubs and dedicate my Olympic year to you.”

“It is a month before the Olympic Games and I know the Devil is trying to work through other people to make me take my eye off God and the finish line.”

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Though she doesn’t have her family alongside to celebrate her victory, Viljoen does have her girlfriend LiMari Louw, a TV news presenter in South Africa.

Last Olympics, Viljoen came incredibly close to winning a medal, missing out by one place, but hopefully it makes Viljoen’s achievement this Olympic Games is all the more sweet.