The world and Olympic 400m sprint champion, Wayde van Niekerk, dominated the 2016 South African Sport Awards in very much the same manner he has been dominating the track this year.
The 24-year-old sprint sensation owned the 11th edition of the awards, which was held at the Sand du Plessis Theatre in Bloemfontein, for his second whitewash at the event.
For a second year running Van Niekerk was named as the South African Sportsman of the Year and on top of that, he was also named as the Sports Star of the Year and won the People’s Choice of the Year.
Last year he stole the show after beating Kirani James and LaShawn Merritt to win the 400m gold at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China. A year later he attended the extravagant event in the City of Roses and the world record holder after winning the Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro in a time of 43.03 sec.
Van Niekerk walked away with R1 million, however, half of that amount is going to a charity. He also won another luxury car.
While Van Niekerk dominated the track in the event, a lot of the credit must go to his coach, Tannie Ans Botha. The 74-year-old great-grandmother is largely instrumental in converting Van Niekerk into a star 400m sprinter after his main focus had been the 200m.
Botha, just as Van Niekerk, stole the show in Rio, and she has also received the due recognition for her efforts.
It was, however, very fitting that Botha didn’t leave the SA Sport Awards empty handed. She was honoured with the Coach of the Year Award.
Van Niekerk said his coach is an inspiration not only to South Africans, but to people around the world.
“I just like to continue celebrating my coach, she’s not just an inspiration to us as South Africans, but also to people around the world. At the age of 74, while reaching her peak, she is inspirational to each and every one of us.”
Track and field in South Africa has seen somewhat of a resurgence over the past few years thanks to the good international performance by Van Niekerk, Caster Semenya, Akani Simbine and Anaso Jobodwana, just to name a few.
Van Niekerk promised that this is only the beginning in turning South Africa into an international athletics force to be reckoned with. “Clearly track and field is dominating, through the Disability as well as the Sportsman and Sportswoman awards,” he added.
“I promise you that this is only the beginning for track and field.”
The 25-year-old Caster Semenya, who won the IAAF Diamond League series and the women’s 800m gold in Rio de Janeiro, was rightly named the South African Sportswoman of the Year.
Charl du Toit was named the Sportsman of the Year with a Disability after that gold in 100m and 400m events at the 2016 Rio Paralympics. Ilse Hayes was the Sportswoman of the Year with a Disability for winning the silver medals in the 100m and 200m T13 events in Rio.
Sports Team of the Year: Mamelodi Sundowns
Newcomer of the Year: Ntando Mahlangu (athletics)
Volunteer of the Year: Kim Pople (canoeing)
Indigenous Games Team of the Year: North West Khokho Team
National Federation of the Year: Roller Sport South Africa
Recreation Body of the Year: Egoli Squash
Photographer of the Year: Sydney Mahlangu
Journalist of the Year: Thabiso Sithole
School Team of the Year: St Benedict’s Mens Coxless Pair
Developing School Team of the Year: Benny’s Sports Academy
Steve Tshwete Lifetime Achiever Award: Mr. Thomas Kwanaite (sports journalist), Mr. Mzimasi Mnguni (Boxing promoter) and Mr. Francois Pienaar (rugby player). – MORGAN PIEK