Middle-distance runner Johan Cronje has been recognised as SA's leading athletics statistician. Photo: Duif du Toit

Johannesburg – Middle-distance runner Johan Cronje was delighted to be recognised as South Africa’s leading athletics statistician after a superb season last year.

Cronje, who featured on the cover of the SA Athletics Statisticians (SAAS) annual for the first time, was recognised as the organisation’s Male Athlete of the Year at its annual awards dinner in Potchefstroom at the weekend.

After struggling to make a major international breakthrough throughout his lengthy career, Cronje twice broke the SA 1 500m record last year, ultimately bringing the long-standing mark down to 3:31.93, and snatched a surprise bronze medal at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow.

“I never thought I would be seen as SA’s top athlete in any calendar year but it happened and I’m very humbled and even kind of proud of myself,” Cronje said on Sunday.

“Being on the cover the annual SAAS statistics book also meant a lot.” Cronje, whose wife Claire had their first child last year, credited his support team for their contribution to his career, including mentor DB Prinsloo who was named SAAS Coach of the Year, and his parents, former athletes Sarina and Danie Cronje.

“I have an amazing team without whom I would not have achieved anything last year Ä my coach DB, my parents, who not only help as a support base with wife and baby when I’m not at home but also play an important role in the coaching together with DB, and my wife Claire who understands my sport and leaves me to enjoy it.”

The 32-year-old multiple national champion, who set a new record SA mile (1 609m) of of 3:50.70 in Eugene last month, confirmed he would compete at two more meetings – the Diamond League events in London on July 12 and Monaco on July 18 – before targeting a medal at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow at the end of the month.

Meanwhile, javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen, who was sixth in her specialist event at the global championships, and was also ranked sixth in the world last season, was named SAAS Female Athlete of the Year.

Long jumper Zarck Visser, who was rated fifth in the world in his discipline with a best leap of 8.32m, received the Beinart Award as the country’s top-ranked athlete.

Viljoen and Visser, both in solid form this season, will turn out again at the Diamond League meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Thursday.

Hugo Badenhorst, who guided the career of former world high jump champion Jacques Freitag, was inducted into the SAAS Coaches’ Hall of Fame. – Sapa