SPRINT sensation Wayde van Niekerk could earn another major feather in his cap after he was shortlisted for the Laureus Sport Breakthrough of the Year Award yesterday.
The new 400m world record holder is flying high after his gold medal run at the Rio Olympics, earning plaudits from across the globe.
Van Niekerk could add another international gong to his growing list of accolades after he was named Best Male Athlete of the 2016 Rio Games by the Association of International Olympic Committees (Anoc).
The South African lost out on the men’s IAAF World Athlete of the Year award to Jamaican sprint icon Usain Bolt, who won the title for the sixth time at the end of last year.
Van Niekerk was named among six nominees from different sports in the Breakthrough of the Year category.
He will go up against Formula One world champion Nico Rosberg, Ethiopian world record breaker Almaz Ayana, and three teams – English Premier League champions Leicester City, European Championship quarter-finalists Iceland and Olympic Rugby Sevens gold medallists Fiji.
Van Niekerk follows in the footsteps of Oscar Pistorius (2008 and 2012) and Louis Oosthuizen to be nominated for this award.
Six South Africans have won awards in various categories, including the victorious Springboks from the 2007 Rugby World Cup for Team of the Year, and Pistorius, Natalie du Toit and Ernst van Dyk for Sportsperson with a Disability.
Adventurer Mike Horn and Springbok Schalk Burger earned gongs for Action Sportsperson of the Year and Comeback of the Year respectively.
“I am humbled just to be mentioned in the company of great sportsmen and women that have been nominated for the Laureus World Sports Awards,” Van Niekerk said in an In-Site Athlete Management release.
“Just to be nominated is a dream come true for any athlete, which will inspire and motivate me for years to come.”
Van Niekerk broke the 400m world record to win gold in his maiden appearance at the Rio Olympics by smashing Michael Johnson’s previous mark with a time of 43.03 seconds.
He also became the first man to have posted a sub-10sec time in the 100m, sub-20 in the 200m and sub-44 in the one-lap sprint.
Nominations for the prestigious Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award include Bolt, 5000 and 10 000m Olympic champion Mo Farah, tennis gold medalist Andy Murray, Portuguese football star Christiano Ronaldo and basketball’s Stephen Curry and LeBron James.
The women’s category includes Americans Simone Biles, Katie Ledecky and Allyson Felix, German tennis ace Angelique Kerber, Jamaican sprint sensation Elaine Thompson and British cyclist Laura Kenny.
The winners will be announced in Monaco on February 14.