SA’s premier athletics star Wayde van Niekerk said on Friday night he was delighted with his 2016 season, after being shortlisted among the finalists for the IAAF Male World Athlete of the Year award.
The accolade was handed to Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt at a gala function in Monaco by the world body, IAAF.
Bolt earned treble gold at the Rio Olympics, achieving the feat for the third straight edition of the Games.
“It’s definitely been a blessed season for me, and an amazing year of growth,” said Van Niekerk, who set a 400m world record of 43.03 seconds to win Olympic gold in August.
“It’s been a confidence booster if I can put it that way because I feel like I’ve grown year after year.”
Van Niekerk paid credit to Bolt, who had previously said he would call time on his career after next year’s IAAF World Championships in London.
Bolt received the accolade for the sixth time, getting the nod ahead of Van Niekerk and British distance runner Mo Farah.
“It’s bittersweet knowing that a legend like Usain Bolt is on the verge of retiring,” said Van Niekerk.
Last month, Van Niekerk was named last month Best Male Athlete of the Rio Olympics by the Association of National Olympic Committees in Doha, Qatar.
“We’ve all taken so much motivation and inspiration from him.”
Athletics South Africa (ASA) congratulated the Bloemfontein speedster for his efforts this season.
“To be nominated for such a prestigious award is a tremendous honour, and we are proud of Wayde for achieving all he has in 2016,” said ASA president Alex Skhosana.
“We thank him for helping put South African athletics on the map, and we wish him well for next year and all other seasons following.” – – ANA