THEY enthralled South Africa and the world with their outstanding performances, and now Caster Semenya and Wayde van Niekerk are in line for the biggest award in athletics.

South Africa’s Rio Olympic champions have both been nominated for the ultimate recognition in the sport – the World Athlete of the Year – following an announcement by the IAAF yesterday.

The only South African to have won either award since its inception in 1988 was high jumper Hestrie Cloete, who took the honours in 2003 after winning gold at the World Championships in Paris that year with a new South African and 
African record of 2.06m.

But Semenya and Van Niekerk will face stiff competition in the male and female categories, with 10 nominees each.

Van Niekerk, though, is definitely one of the favourites due to his world record, but Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt will be in serious contention following his triple gold in Rio (100m, 200m, 4x100m relay).

Apart from Semenya, the other favourites for the female award will be Ethiopia’s 10 000m Olympic champion and world-record holder Almaz Ayana, Poland’s hammer throw world-record holder Anita Wlodarczyk – the only woman to have gone beyond 80m – and US 100m hurdler Kendra Harrison, who set a new world mark of 12.20sec in July, but wasn’t in Rio as she didn’t finish in the top three at her national trials.

The voting process has begun and closes on November 1.

The IAAF Awards Night is to take place in Monaco on Friday, December 2.