The cheering stopped and the crowds went home, and it was a sad day for South Africa’s newest athletics star Wayde van Niekerk when no one was at the airport to welcome him home.
Van Niekerk made headlines when he won gold in the 400m at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing last month.
But on Monday, only his mother was at Bloemfontein Airport to welcome him home.
Rene Smit, who was at the airport, recognised the star, and posted on Facebook that it was a rather dull return for Wayde, who was born and raised in the Western Cape.
With the picture, Rene wrote: “Do u know who this is???? This is Wayde van Niekerk... He just won gold at the World Championships held in Beijing in the 400m in a time of 43.48 secs. The 4/5th fastest time ever recorded!!!! Yet, when he arrived back home at the airport, no media, no flashing cameras to welcome him back home and congratulating him on this fantastic achievement! Only his mother was waiting to welcome him back, and what a proud moment that must have been!!!”
People immediately responded by posting pictures of Caster Semenya’s victorious return from the same athletics meet a few years ago, and claimed the government was biased and racist.
But Van Niekerk wasn’t bothered and tweeted: “Had an amazing welcoming back at the airport yesterday, thank you everyone for the effort put in.”