JOHANNESBURG - Wayde van Niekerk says South Africans should celebrate the fact that three athletes - himself, Caster Semenya and Luvo Manyonga - have been nominated for the prestigious IAAF World Athlete of the Year awards.
The three SA stars were among 10 men and 10 women nominated for the awards while the list will be whittled down to three per category after the first-round of voting has closed on October 16.
“To have three athletes from the same country dominating outside the likes of the US, the UK, and Jamaica is something that needs to be celebrated,” Van Niekerk said yesterday.
“We’ve got three massive people in track and field and it is only good for us to show our respects to the athletes and thank them for the past few years of hard work they have put in to be where they are today.”
It is the second consecutive year Van Niekerk and Semenya have made it onto the initial shortlist, with South Africa’s sprinting king earning a top-three nomination last year.
The trio will be looking to walk in the footsteps of former world high jump champion Hestrie Cloete, who won the coveted accolade in 2003.
Van Niekerk, Manyonga and Semenya won gold medals in their respective specialist events at this year’s World Championships in London.
Middle-distance ace Semenya raced to her third 800m world title while adding the 1500m bronze medal while Van Niekerk stopped short of a rare 200-400m golden double.
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The 400m world record-holder retained his one-lap world title before adding the 200m silver medal to his growing list of accolades.
Van Niekerk (300m) and Semenya (600m) set world best times over unofficial distances, while Manyonga produced the four best leaps in the world this season in in the long jump.
Semenya and Manyonga completed a full calendar year without losing a single competition.
Individual graphics for each nominee will be posted on IAAF’s Facebook and Twitter later this week where the public can ‘like’ or ‘favourite’ will count as one vote.