South African Athletics

Van Niekerk, Simbine arrive to heroes' welcome

2016-09-07 17:52
Akani Simbine and Wayde van Niekerk (Getty Images)

Cape Town - Olympic 400m champion Wayde van Niekerk and 100m finalist Akani Simbine arrived home to a festive welcome from a multitude of fans, family, friends, officials and sponsors at OR Tambo International Airport on Wednesday.

Van Niekerk and Simbine had spent some time in Europe after the Rio Olympic Games and were welcomed by hundreds of supporters, a reception that seemed to catch them by surprise.

"It's the best. I'm really thankful for the amazing support I get all round," said Van Niekerk, who won the Olympic title last month in a new world record  of 43.03. It's something I really cherish and use as motivation to keep moving forward."

Van Niekerk and Simbine - who finished fifth in the short sprint final in Rio, said they will take a break now in the off-season and start planning for the 2017 campaign, which includes the IAAF World Championships in London.

"I'm going to take a rest, chill a bit and go back to school (varsity) before I start training again," said Simbine, the national 100m record holder in 9.89.

Aleck Skhosana, the Athletics South Africa President, said the federation was proud to welcome home two of the country's fastest men.

While Skhosana and ASA vice-president Harold Adams were tied up in Dakar, Senegal at the CAA Council Meeting, the federation was represented at the arrival ceremony by Richard Stander the ASA Acting CEO and Hezekiel Sepeng the Excellence Manager, a former Olympic 800m silver medallist.

"I was privileged to witness first-hand the excellent performances of both Wayde van Niekerk and Akani Simbine at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games," Skhosana said in a written message.

"It is with great pride and joy that we receive these athletes back in South Africa. They have been great ambassadors for our country."

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