Johannesburg - Olympic and world 400m champion Wayde van Niekerk believes South African track and field athletes can continue to dominate the world.
Van Niekerk, who, together with long jumper Luvo Manyonga and middle distance runner Caster Semenya, have been named among 10 men and 10 women nominated for the prestigious 2017 IAAF Athlete of the Year awards, was speaking at the launch of his documentary movie “43.03 – The Wayde van Niekerk Story”, in Midrand, Gauteng.
Dominate world stage
All three South Africans won world titles this year, with Van Niekerk and Semenya earning two medals each at the IAAF World Championships in London.
“I think all of us ... as athletes ... we realise we need to fight for our own victory and we need to fight for our own dominance as athletes, and that is really what we came out to do,” he said.
He said the likes of 800m Olympic champion Semenya, 2017 IAAF long jump world champion Manyonga, bronze medallist Ruswahl Samaai and speedster Akani Simbine had what it took to dominate the world stage, and urged the public to support them.
“I think we’ve got great potential; we still have some great athletes on the scene as a country".
He urged the public to continue supporting the track and field athletes.
“We would appreciate it if we continue supporting track and field the same way we support other sport – the likes of rugby, cricket and football. Track and field is slowly but surely climbing the ranks of being the top sport in South Africa and we will continue working hard for [world] dominance".
He said his nomination was an honour for himself and other South Africans.
“It’s a massive honour to see and have our story being shared with the rest of the world. Hopefully, it will be an inspiration. It’s a good time to celebrate a big milestone in my life".
Talking about his second IAAF nomination in a row, he said he would be honoured to follow in his friend Usain Bolt’s footsteps by winning the award.
Semenya has been nominated in the female world athlete of the year category and Manyonga is nominated along with Van Niekerk in the male world athlete of the year category.
“The three of us being nominated is something worth celebrating as a country".
The 400m world record-holder said he was not over his injury and was receiving treatment. But he assured his fans he would be back on top of his game next year.
Van Niekerk added that this year had been one of the toughest years of his life and that he was glad to have achieved on the world stage again.
He also revealed that he would not participate in his favourite 400m race at next year’s Commonwealth Games in Australia. He will instead be gunning for the 100m and 200m titles.
The public can vote online via IAAF’s social-media platforms. Voting closes on October 16.
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