Roger Federer celebrates after winning a match at the ATP World Tour Finals in London in November. Photo: John Walton/PA via AP
Roger Federer celebrates after winning a match at the ATP World Tour Finals in London in November. Photo: John Walton/PA via AP
Federer of Switzerland celebrates with the Australian Open winner's trophy. Photo: EPA/LUKAS COCH
Federer of Switzerland celebrates with the Australian Open winner's trophy. Photo: EPA/LUKAS COCH
Federer lifts the the Wimbledon winnner's trophy. Photo: EPA/PETER KLAUNZE
Federer lifts the the Wimbledon winnner's trophy. Photo: EPA/PETER KLAUNZE

JOHANNESBURG - It’s that time of 2017 when we all begin to reflect on the year behind us and ponder what we have achieved, if anything, and whether it was a year to remember or one to forget.

I know it’s that time of the year because Time magazine says so. They have, you see, selected a shortlist for their Person of the Year. As can be expected, it is an American-centric list with a sprinkle of foreign influence just to make it that bit more relevant. The characters on show are dividing and controversial, some demagogues - such as North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un - others more inspirational, such as the #MeToo movement.

Currently, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman leads the poll as stories of political purging and US-backed torture trickle out of Saudi Arabia.

There are only two sports personalities on the list. One is Colin Kaepernick, former quarterback of the 49ers and he who started bending the knee while the US national anthem played in protest of police brutality amongst the various minorities in that country, much to the chagrin and misinterpretation of President Donald Trump and right-wing America.

The other is US tennis player Serena Williams. She too has been selected for her activism, although, to be fair, she did not participate on court for the majority of the year due to her pregnancy. Even then, she still managed to win the Australian Open this year.

This got me a thinking: Who would be my Sports Person of the Year? An insignificant question in the greater scheme of things but important to my person as I wonder which sports star has inspired me to be better or strive for greater things?

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are always easy picks, such is their prolific inclination towards winning titles and honours.

Or perhaps it should be Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, albeit with a bit of bias there.

Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has had another tough year and has been in the news almost constantly due to his mostly fractionate ways.

Likewise, his Bafana Bafana counterpart Stuart Baxter has ridden the same roller-coaster of emotions.

Then there are Wayde van Niekerk, Caster Semenya and Luvo Manyonga, all of them worthy athletes who have brought South Africa much prestige and honour and deserve each and every award that comes their way, while Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and Kirsten McCann have been breathless in their respective sports.

But my pick belongs to a "half" South African... my pick for Sports Person of the Year goes to the effervescent Roger Federer. The Swiss tennis maestro is now the grandmaster of the sport and many earlier this year believed that he could not win another Grand Slam. He would go on to win two.

Since 2013 there has been much heartbreak for Federer. During those four years, he managed three Grand Slam finals but always come up short. No matter.

Picking himself up, dusting himself off, always a paragon of sportsmanship, he continued believing, never losing sight of his objectives. He must have faltered, there must have been self-doubt, but instead of giving up, he handled each loss as another bump on the journey, each victory becoming all the more sweeter. He did so with a statesmanship that is sorely lacking in several parts of the world, always tactful and sensitive. He shook the hand of those who vanquished him, gave praise when it was required, showed emotion and passion.

Last year he finished 16th in the rankings. This time around, at 36, he is ranked No 2 having won the Australian Open and Wimbledon, as well as seven other ATP Tour events. If he wishes to retire now, all power to him.

He reminds me of Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery using lacquer mixed with gold, silver or platinum. The philosophy behind the art form is to embrace those flaws - the breakage itself - mending it together to recreate the old with streaks of the new, something that has withstood the test of time highlighted by imperfections to tell the whole story.

The cracks and repair are proof of life, an event rather than an end. And although the object was once broken, through meticulous labour it is reforged and is made all the more special, all the more beautiful, all the more memorable.

The Star

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