World long jump champion Luvo Manyonga was the big winner on Sunday night at the SA Sports Awards in Kempton Park, where he was crowned the Sports Star of the Year. Photo: Timothy Bernard/ANA

When Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula shuffled off to the Police Ministry, it was hoped that we would see the end of the wasteful SA Sports Awards.

The Mbablahblah Awards were an extension of his inflated ego that did little to contribute to the development of sport in this country.

Instead, it was an opulent exhibitionist display of how to waste money that should rather be spent wisely in the upliftment of our communities.

Newly installed Minister of Sport, Thulas Nxesi, has brought some form of respectability to the annual awards evening.

This year’s awards were void of the razzmatazz that characterised the Mbalula years. Gone is the R46 million in wasteful expenditure, like spending money on international artists instead of making use of local talent.

This year’s awards received significant budget cuts, with a Honda for prize-winners instead of a fancy Mercedes Benz.

The lack of the blatant splash of cash at the 2017 SA Sports Awards was a welcome departure from the previous years, but I still question the need for such an event.

There will always be a need for grand parties for events such as the presidential inauguration to instill national pride. But rather, the money for these awards should be focused on sports development, leaving the respective federations to recognise their athletes.

It is also a flawed process where apples go up against pears, where the success of a road cyclist is compared to that of a football player.

Sport, by its very nature, is a popularity contest. So, for instance a rugby player, who might not deserve a mention, never mind a nomination, is able to share the stage with a world champion or Olympic gold medallist.

Some of the country’s most deserving sports people are overlooked in their own country, but receive the highest of honours at an international level.

Last year, South African coach Roger Barrow was named World Rowing Coach of the Year, but is yet to receive any kind of accolade at home.

Neither Kevin Anderson or his South African coach Neville Godwin received any kind of mention for their achievements in international tennis this year.

The country’s top singles player became the first South African in a US Open final since Cliff Drysdale way back in 1965.

He bowed the knee 6-3 6-3 6-4 to Rafael Nadal in the men’s singles final, handing the Spaniard his 16th Grand Slam title.

World long-jump gold medallist Luvo Manyonga and three-time 800m champion Caster Semenya were the big winners of the 2017 SA Sports Awards, and to suggest they were not deserving would be disingenuous.

But someone like 400m world record holder Wayde van Niekerk will feel hard done by for not walking away with any kind of award.

Just like in previous years, some of the country’s top athletes had to watch from the comfort of their homes as their peers received recognition for what they believed they also deserved.

Life isn't always fair and we can’t all take the spoils, but surely there are more equitable ways of recognising the best of the best?

We already have the National Orders which the President bestows on citizens, which serve as the highest awards in a country.

Perhaps the different federations should do more to recognise their own as annual awards for sports like swimming and athletics no longer exist.

At least the international bodies honour South African coaches, athletes, and administrators when we fail to recognise the best among us.

Saturday Star

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