Sunette Viljoen is an Olympic champion: On Thursday, the South African javelin thrower earned a silver medal in Rio, launching her projectile 64.92 meters, or more than 212 feet.
What’s more, she used to be a world-class cricketer, representing South Africa in the 2000 World Cup.
But while her countrymen are celebrating her victory, the out track-and-field star has been met with pain and rejection from her family.
Earlier this summer, Viljoen, 32, posted on Facebook that her brother had slapped her in the face in a disagreement over her sexuality.
“God help me‚” Viljoen wrote. “My brother has just lifted his hands to me again… [and] slapped me through the face.”
In the same post she revealed that her father struck her four years ago over the same issue.
Olympians rely heavily on the love and support of their families to get them to the Games, but Viljoen’s family has ostracized her. The stress and heartbreak has taken its toll.
“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,” she said of the incident with her brother.
But after coming in fourth place at the 2012 Games in London, Viljoen rededicated herself. She credited her girlfriend, TV news presenter LiMari Louw, with being her rock.
“LiMari knows me inside out and she knows exactly what to say and when to say it‚ how to handle and how to see situations,” she told TMG Sport in 2015. “She’s literally my psychologist.”
Not an activist by nature, Viljoen is sharing her story to help others facing the same “hell.”
“I’m speaking out for every person out there who is being broken emotionally or physically over who they love,” she wrote in the July post.
“I will fight for you till my hands are stubs and dedicate my Olympic year to you.”