Van Niek­erk set to win third SA Sport Award gong

CityPress - - Sport - SIL­VER SIBIYA sil­ver.sibiya@city­ TIM­O­THY MOLOBI tim­o­thy@city­ PULE MOKHINE pmokhine@city­

Olympic gold medal­list Wayde van Niek­erk stands a good chance of win­ning his third sport star of the year award dur­ing the SA Sport Awards event at Em­per­ors Palace tonight.

He has won the award for the past two years. He per­formed bril­liantly again this year, win­ning an In­ter­na­tional Association of Ath­let­ics Fed­er­a­tions (IAAF) gold medal.

How­ever, he faces stiff com­pe­ti­tion from his fel­low ath­letes, long jump world cham­pion Luvo Many­onga and 800m gold medal­list Caster Se­menya.

Van Niek­erk’s 2017 cam­paign in­cluded two medals at the World Cham­pi­onships in London in Au­gust and a 300m world best of 30.81 sec­onds in Os­trava in June.

Van Niek­erk top­pled Se­menya and Proteas crick­eter Kag­iso Rabada last year to win the award, af­ter his world record-breaking run at the Rio Olympics in Brazil, in which he blasted off the fi­nal cor­ner to clock 43.03 sec­onds – 0.15 sec­onds faster than Amer­i­can Michael John­son’s pre­vi­ous world record set in Seville in 1999.

In 2015, Van Niek­erk also scooped the award af­ter beat­ing world cham­pion moun­tain bike racer Greg Min­naar and 2012 Olympic cham­pion Chad le Clos.

He’ll also go toe-to-toe with foot­baller Percy Tau and boxer Zolani Tete tonight.

Bafana Bafana and Mamelodi Sun­downs for­ward Tau was in­stru­men­tal in help­ing Sun­downs clinch the CAF Cham­pi­ons League.

Tau’s in­cred­i­ble rise has seen him win the con­ti­nen­tal Su­per Cup with the Brazil­ians, and he has re­cently proven to be a key player for Bafana in the 2018 World Cup qual­i­fiers – he scored dur­ing the 3-1 vic­tory over Burk­ina Faso to help keep the team’s hopes alive.

The 29-year-old Tete has made his­tory by be­com­ing the first boxer to get a nom­i­na­tion for the top award. The pugilist beat Filipino Arthur Vil­lanueva to win the World Box­ing Or­gan­i­sa­tion ban­tamweight ti­tle in April.

Se­menya is the only wo­man who has been nom­i­nated for the award. She won a gold medal in the women’s 800m and a bronze medal in the 1 500m at the IAAF World Cham­pi­onships in London, where Many­onga won gold in the men’s long jump.

This week, Van Niek­erk was in­cluded among the fi­nal­ists for the IAAF World Ath­lete of the Year Awards.

Last year, he was also among the IAAF fi­nal­ists af­ter win­ning the Olympic 400m ti­tle and breaking the world record, but lost out to Ja­maican le­gend Usain Bolt, who earned his third Olympic tre­ble.

This year, Van Niek­erk is up against Bri­tish dis­tance run­ner Mo Farah – who se­cured gold in the 10km and sil­ver for the 5km at the World Cham­pi­onships – and world high jump cham­pion Mu­taz Essa Barshim of Qatar.

The win­ner will be revealed at the an­nual IAAF awards cer­e­mony in Monaco on Novem­ber 24.

Ican’t say I wasn’t warned! Long be­fore the Soweto Marathon, I was told it wasn’t pap and vleis, but I re­fused to be­lieve it. To say the 42km race was grue­some is an un­der­state­ment. What a tough time I had – and for those of us who took more time to fin­ish, the scorch­ing heat didn’t make things any eas­ier. All I saw were flames! To quote Baroka FC coach Kgoloko Thobe­jane: “This thing will kill you a real death.”

How­ever, I am not a quit­ter. Noth­ing was go­ing to stop me from re­al­is­ing my goal of fin­ish­ing my maiden marathon, no mat­ter the cir­cum­stances.

The event had its fair share of drama, which ranged from run­ners’ cramp to peo­ple for­get­ting where they had parked their cars.

But it’s all part of the fun, and Sowe­tans know how to make the marathon a mem­o­rable, en­ter­tain­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Big ups to the lo­cals who cheered us all the way. Some poked fun at us with com­ments such as, “Awuya kwini [where were you go­ing/what were you think­ing]”, while oth­ers en­cour­aged us to go for it.

Mem­bers of the Fat Cats Ath­letic Club were there in force, sup­port­ing us all the way.

What I like most about races such as this one is the ca­ma­raderie among ath­letes as they push one an­other to greater heights. A stand­out mo­ment was when one vol­un­teer said, just af­ter the start­ing point: “You’re al­most there!” Peo­ple laughed at him.

But reach­ing Vi­lakazi Street, just af­ter the 27km mark, Zolani “Last Born” Tete has vowed to not al­low the mis­for­tune of be­ing a vic­tim of house­break­ing to cloud his mind ahead of his cru­cial world ti­tle de­fence.


SPEED­STER Olympic 400m cham­pion Wayde van Niek­erk has again raked in the medals this year


PUNCHER week Zolani Tete dur­ing a me­dia open day at Ur­ban War­rior Box­ing Gym this

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