Johannesburg - The accolades have been piling up but Wayde van Niekerk is on the cusp of earning the highest honour in his sport in Monaco on Friday when the male IAAF Athlete of the Year Award is announced.
Van Niekerk has already received recognition from the Association of National Olympic Committees (Anoc) when he was named Best Male Athlete of the Rio Olympic Games last month.
“That was massive (the Anoc award). I went out there, I didn’t really expect it but when I realised what really happened I was half-stunned because I walked out of my dorm room every day star struck looking at all the amazing sport people around me,” Van Niekerk said after he won a host of gongs at the South African Sports Awards over the weekend.
“I won an award over most people I admire, and it gives me a sense of responsibility to go out there and put a good foot forward to inspire the upcoming guys and to do what I do and go out there and chase their dreams.
“I just go out there and do me as best as I can, and try and inspire as many South Africans as possible.”
Van Niekerk, who raced to Olympic victory in August and broke the 400m world record time of 43.03 seconds, will go up against iconic Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, and British distance ace Mo Farah.
Bolt made history in August earning a third successive treble gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay in Rio.
Farah in turn grabbed the double double’ when he won the 5 000m, and 10 000m at consecutive Olympic Games.
Earlier in the year Van Niekerk raced to his first sub-10 second time in the 100m at the Free State Championships in Bloemfontein.
In the process, he became the first man to dip below 10s, 20s, and 44s in the 100m, 200m and 400m which should improve his chances of walking away with the coveted top accolade at the year-end awards.
“The IAAF is a massive, massive award and I am really just grateful to be nominated among the world’s greats. I mean Mo Farah and Usain Bolt have rewritten the history books of track and field,” Van Niekerk said.
“I am just glad I can put my foot in there now as well and start writing my own journey.”
Meanwhile, Roger Barrow, the brains behind South Africa’s rowing success over the last few years is up for World Rowing’s 2016 Coach of the Year Award which will be announced on Friday.
Barrow qualified an unprecedented five boats for the Rio Olympic Games where all five crews featured in finals with the men’s pair of Lawrence Brittain and Shaun Keeling earning the silver medal.
The South African goes up against the cream of international rowing’s best coaches including Great Britain’s Jurgen Grobler, who led the country’s men’s four and eight to gold medals in Rio.
It is the second-time Barrow has been nominated for the prize after he missed out on the award in 2014 when he coached the men’s lightweight double sculls crew of James Thompson and John Smit to a gold medal at the World Championships and the men’s pair to bronze.
“The guys on that list are mentor heroes for me and just to be on a list with those sort of names means the world to me. So it is awesome to be recognised in that way,” Barrow said.
“If you look at the kind of resources they have, it is a different league. And to have what I have, I guess that is why I could be on a list like that.”