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MORGAN PIEK

The sky is the limit for the humble and down-to-earth 400m World Champion, Wayde van Niekerk, who is experiencing a year he will never forget.

The past season has been a breakthrough for the sprinting sensation with him breaking numerous South African and African records, winning a world title, being selected to be a world ambassador for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and now being nominated for two awards at the glitzy South African Sports Awards taking place in his hometown.

The 23-year-old sprinter was crowned the men’s 400m sprint World Champion in August this year when he beat Grenada’s Kirani James and the USA’s LeShawn Merritt in Beijing, China, to become the fourth fastest sprinter over 400m of all time.

Van Niekerk clinched the coveted world title in 43.48 seconds to reclaim his African record which he conceded to his rival, Isaac Makwala from Botswana, a few months prior to the World Championship, a little less than 24 hours after breaking it in Paris.

The Grey College old boy, who also excelled this year during the IAAF Diamond League in Europe and the USA, has been nominated for the South African Sportsman of the Year Award along with swimming sensation, Chad le Clos, and mountain bike king, Greg Minnaar.

On top of that he has been nominated in the new category, the People Choice Award, along with Le Clos, Proteas cricketer AB de Villiers, wheelchair tennis star Lucas Sithole, and cyclist Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio.

Van Niekerk told Courant he is delighted to receive recognition for his efforts on the track.

“It’s really a blessing, especially knowing that I had such a great year.

“Now I’m being honoured by my country as well. The fact that I got to representing my country was really a blessing in itself.

“Getting to achieve something and represent the country in the way I did, was really an honour – knowing that I could bring home the gold medal for the country.”

At the end of the Diamond League season, Van Niekerk ranked third in the men’s 400m, behind James and Merritt with two wins to his name.

The sprinter’s purple patch in 2015 saw him break the South African 300m record at the Birmingham British Athletics Grand Prix meeting in a time of 31.63 on 7 June. He followed that up with a national 200m record set at 19.94 in Lucerne on 14 July, becoming the first South African to run the distance in a sub-20 second time. Anaso Jobobwana proceeded to reset the record at 19.87 in Beijing.

However, his crowning moment was on 26 August when he won the world title. This launched him into world athletics stardom and we will see him heading to England the day after the SA Sports Award function to shoot a television commercial for Adidas.

The 10th annual South African Sports Awards ceremony takes place on Sunday 22 November at the Sand du Plessis Theatre in Bloemfontein.