It’s Wayde vs Caster in awards sprint
Semenya, who has been nominated in two of the same SA Sports Awards categories, has the potential to cause major upset, writes Timothy Molobi
The sports star of the year award will be a tight race between Olympic gold medallists Wayde van Niekerk and Caster Semenya, who will go neck and neck to the finish line.
Whoever wins will do so in nailbiting fashion.
Van Niekerk won the 400m track event in Rio, while Semenya did the same in the women’s 800m. Semenya also bagged the Diamond League series.
Last week, Van Niekerk was named the best male athlete of Rio 2016 at the Association of National Olympic Committees Awards in Doha.
Ahead of tonight’s SA Sports Awards in Bloemfontein, the question is whether either one of the two athletes will make a clean sweep or whether there will be upsets.
The two runners are contesting in three categories, but are going head-to-head in two categories. Their coaches are also going to contest against each other in the coach of the year category.
Last year’s triple winner Van Niekerk will be aiming for a repeat as he competes in the same three sections – sports star, sportsman and the people’s choice awards – while Semenya is wrestling him for the sports star and people’s choice awards. But she is also vying to become the sportswoman of the year.
Van Niekerk’s coach Anna Botha and Semenya’s mentor Jean Verster are also up for best coach award.
But, as in any sporting event, upsets are part of the game and nothing is guaranteed until the announcement is made.
While focus will be on the two athletes, there are other candidates. The newcomer of the year category will be closely contested by Henri Schoeman, Brad Binder and young Ntando Mahlangu.
Schoeman secured a podium finish in an international race for the first time in his career, winning bronze in the men’s triathlon in Rio.
The 25-year-old went on to win this year’s ITU World Triathlon Series Grand Final the following month.
Binder won the hearts of the nation when he was crowned the new Moto3 world champion, becoming the first South African rider to win a grand prix in 36 years.
However, Mahlangu will give the two a run for their money in this category.
The 14-year-old was the toast of the nation when he won his first Paralympic silver medal in Rio this year.
A total of 15 categories will be contested tonight (see box).
Six Paralympic athletes are also in contention for sportsman of the year with a disability and sportswoman of the year with a disability awards.
TOP ACHIEVER Henri Schoeman won this year’s ITU World Triathlon Series Grand Final
WORLD CHAMP Brad Binder was the first local in 36 years to win a grand prix NATIONAL PRIDE Ntando Mahlangu won a silver medal in Rio de Janeiro