Wayde van Niekerk’s growing legend could be further enhanced should he walk away with the prestigious male IAAF World Athlete of the Year Award after he made the final shortlist for the second year running.
Last year, Van Niekerk missed out on the prize to Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt but will hope his double medal haul at the IAAF World Championships in London would be enough to earn him the title this time.
Bolt’s absence does not make Van Niekerk an automatic choice with Great Britain’s Mo Farah and Qatari high-jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim also making the shortlist ahead of the IAAF Athletics Awards in Monaco on November 24.
Farah, a four-time Olympic champion, defended his 10000m at the world championships and finished second in the 5000m in the British capital in August. Barshim produced a faultless series at the same championships to win the global title with a 2.35 metres clearance.
Van Niekerk will bid to become only the second SA athlete, after former world high jump champion Hestrie Cloete in 2003, to win the coveted accolade.
His nomination will come as some comfort after he has been ruled out for at least six months after he went under the knife in Colorado last week to fix a damaged knee.
He sustained medial and lateral tears of the meniscus, as well as a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in a touch rugby match in October.
It was an otherwise successful year for Van Niekerk as he became only the second South African, after Cloete’s high-jump double in 2001 and 2003, to defend a world title when he raced to victory in his specialist 400m in London.
He may not have completed the 200-400m golden double but nevertheless walked away with the half-lap silver medal.
Earlier in the season, he set a new South African 200m record when he clocked 19.84 seconds in Jamaica before also racing to a new 300m world best of 30.81 seconds at the Ostrava Golden Spike.
Bizarrely, treble world champion and Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya has missed on nomination.
Semenya has been unbeaten for two years in her specialist 800m event while she won her third world title in the two-lap event and added the 1500m bronze medal for good measure.
Greek pole vaulter Ekaterini Stefanidi, Belgian heptathlete Nafissatou Thiam and Ethiopia distance ace Almaz Ayana will be battling it out for the female award.
South African world long-jump champion Luvo Manyonga also missed the cut in the men’s category despite going unbeaten in his specialist event this season.