Rea­sons Wayde is tops

It was no sur­prise when Wayde van Niek­erk made a clean sweep at the SA Sports Awards. Daniel Mothowa­gae jus­ti­fies the choice

CityPress - - Sport -

World’s num­ber 1

Van Niek­erk fin­ished the year not only as the world cham­pion but ranked at num­ber one in the 400m glob­ally. Fastest times this year

The 23-year-old ran the five fastest times in the 400m top-10 seg­ment in the world this year (see box). Hat-trick and count­ing

His clean sweep at the SA Sports Awards last Sun­day came ex­actly a month af­ter Van Niek­erk was named the Kovsies (Univer­sity of the Free State) Sports­man of the Year for a third year run­ning.

Two days af­ter he scooped the SA Sports Star, Sports­man and Peo­ple’s Choice awards, he also re­ceived the SAB Sports Me­dia Per­son­al­ity of the Year award, on Tues­day. Firsts by a South African

His 19.94 sec­onds in a 200m race in Zurich, Switzer­land, in July made him Mzansi’s first ath­lete to breach the 20-sec­ond time.

This feat came two weeks af­ter Van Niek­erk made his­tory as the first African to run a sub-44-sec­ond time in the 400m fi­nal in Paris, France.

His world cham­pi­onship gold in Bei­jing, China, was the first SA sprint medal in al­most a cen­tury. Record breaker

He ran five record times this year – over the 200m, 300m and 400m (three times).

best In lift­ing the 400m world ti­tle in Au­gust, Van Niek­erk clocked the sixth-fastest 400m time of all time. The time is 0.3 sec­onds off the 43.24-sec­ond world record set by US leg­end Michael John­son in 1999. Seven of the best

He en­joyed an un­beaten run in seven out of eight in­ter­na­tional races. He came third be­hind win­ner Ki­rani James (Gre­nada) and run­ner-up LaShawn Mer­ritt (US) at the Zurich, Switzer­land, Di­a­mond race seven days af­ter the South African beat the two to the global cham­pi­onships gold medal in Bei­jing.

feat With his 200m per­sonal best of 19.94 sec­onds, Van Niek­erk is ranked along­side John­son, Mer­ritt and Botswana’s Isaac Mak­wala as the only ath­letes to have gone un­der 20 sec­onds in the 200m and 44 sec­onds in the 400m.

By smash­ing the 29-year-old African record over the rarely run 300m dis­tance in 31.63 sec­onds at a Di­a­mond League meet­ing in Birm­ing­ham, UK, in June, Van Niek­erk shaved more than half a sec­ond off the pre­vi­ous SA record of 32.15 set by Morné Nagel in De­cem­ber 2006. Beat­ing the cream of the crop

This sea­son, the Kovsies mar­ket­ing stu­dent de­feated toprated 400m run­ners – reign­ing Olympic and for­mer world cham­pion James, Mer­ritt (2008 Olympic and 2009 world champ) and Mak­wala (reign­ing African cham­pion). Not the one to blow his own horn Some of Van Niek­erk’s care­fully se­lected com­ments:

After win­ning three SA Sports awards: “It was re­ally just an hon­our to be able to stand on the podium and say I won a gold medal for South Africa, and here I get three awards.”

After beat­ing Olympic cham­pion James: “...was def­i­nitely a gamechanger, and now I know I need to step up my game and try to com­pete at a more con­sis­tent level and, through that con­sis­tency, I be­lieve the re­sults will fol­low.”

After win­ning the 400m gold medal in Bei­jing: “Just be­ing in the fi­nal was a bless­ing and God gave me the big prize to­day.” SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word

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WAYDE

PHOTO: PATRICK SMITH / GETTY IM­AGES

DI­VINE IN­TER­VEN­TION

Prayer comes first for Wayde van Niek­erk on the track

PHOTO: MLUNGISI LOUW

IC­ING ON THE CAKE Reap­ing

the re­wards at the SA Sports Awards to

cap a re­mark­able

sea­son

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