Olympic champions Wayde van Niekerk and Caster Semenya spearheaded the list of nominees revealed on Monday for next month’s SA Sport Awards.
Van Niekerk, who broke the men’s 400m world record to win gold at the Rio Games, and Semenya, who set a national women’s 800m mark to reach the top step of the podium, were each in line for three accolades.
The track stars, who were also nominated earlier this month for the IAAF Athlete of the Year awards, were joined by cricketer Kagiso Rabada as the three finalists for Sport Star of the Year, and the trio were named alongside swimmer Chad le Clos and rugby player Seabelo Senatla for the People’s Choice award, to be decided by public vote.
For the Sportsman of the Year award, Van Niekerk and Le Clos, the country’s only double medallist in Rio, will be up against eight-time canoe marathon world champion Hank McGregor.
There was no place, however, for resurgent long jumper Luvo Manyonga and breaststroke swimmer Cameron van der Burgh who earned Olympic silver medals.
In the Sportswoman of the Year category, Semenya was listed alongside canoeist Jenna Ward, who finished fourth in the K1 race and earned K2 silver with Kyeta Purchase at the World Marathon Championships, and Proteas netball player Phumza Maweni.
Javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen, who bagged silver at the Olympics, did not receive any nominations. One of only two SA women to reach the podium in Rio, Viljoen had recently come to blows with sports minister Fikile Mbalula and the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) after criticising the team kit at the Games and lashing out for alleged delays in bonus payments.
Meanwhile, Paralympic medallists dominated the list of nominees for the Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year with a Disability awards, with sprinters Charl du Toit and Dyan Buis up against field events specialist Reinhardt Hamman for the men’s gong, and speedsters Ilse Hayes and Anrune Liebenberg named with veteran javelin thrower Zanele Situ for the women’s accolade.
The Team of the Year prize would be contested between the men’s rowing pair of Shaun Keeling and Lawrence Brittain, who earned Olympic silver, the Springbok Sevens rugby team, who bagged Olympic bronze, and Premiership football side Mamelodi Sundowns.
While Sundowns’ recent victory in the African Champions League fell outside the closing date for nominations, they progressed to the semifinals within the window period.
Triathlete Henri Schoeman, who charged to a surprise bronze medal in Rio, and teenage sprinter Ntando Mahlangu, a Paralympic silver medallist, were nominated alongside motorcycle racer Brad Binder, who won the Moto3 World Championship, in the Newcomer of the Year division.
In the Coach of the Year category, Van Niekerk and Semenya’s mentors, Ans Botha and Jean Verster, were nominated with Suzanne Ferreira, who guided five athletes to Paralympic medals, and Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane.
The annual SA Sport Awards gala would be held in Bloemfontein on November 27, where the winners in all 18 categories would be announced.