South African star athlete Wayde van Niekerk has received special recognition from the Association of National Olympic Committees (Anoc) for his spectacular performance at the Rio Olympic Games in August.
The 24-year-old’s incredible performance in Brazil, which saw him clocking 43.03 seconds to win gold and set a 400m world record at the quadrennial spectacle, was enough to see Van Niekerk announced as the Best Male Athlete of the Games at the Anoc Awards Ceremony in Doha, Qatar on Tuesday evening.
At the Olympics, he took 0.15 off the 17-year-old global best previously held by American great Michael Johnson, further establishing his place among the fastest men in the world.
The Team South Africa Olympic flag bearer became the first man to win Olympic gold from lane 8, beating Kirani James of Grenada and American LaShawn Merritt.
Sprint legend and 100m gold medallist Usain Bolt was quick to personally congratulate Van Niekerk on the incredible achievement, having trained with him in Jamaica a few months before Rio 2016, cutting short an interview to go over and embrace the young South African after a stunning race.
The Association of National Olympic Committees award serves to recognise Van Niekerk’s Olympic triumph, as well as a superb season in which he dominated his race of choice.
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This award for Van Niekerk comes on the heels of the talented young runner being confirmed as one of three finalists for the prestigious men’s award of the 2016 International Association of Athletics Federations Athlete of the Year.
The Olympic 400m champion and world record holder was named alongside Jamaican Bolt, who earned a third successive treble gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay at the Rio Games, and Mo Farah of Great Britain, who charged to a second straight double in the 5,000m and 10,000m events.
Van Niekerk was the only man among the initial nine nominees who set an official global record this season, and his National Olympic Committees award win bodes well for his chances of winning the IAAF accolade.
Reacting to Van Niekerk’s award, president of Athletics South Africa, Aleck Skhosana had words of praise for the country’s star sprinter.
“This award is a tremendous honour for Wayde, which once again shows that he has established his place among the top athletes in the world,” said Skhosana, according to Athletics South Africa.
“We are proud of Wayde for receiving this accolade, and we congratulate him and his coach Anna Botha, for receiving this worthy recognition for all his hard work,” he added.
“We hope that this prestigious decoration will lay a foundation for the 2016 IAAF Athlete of The Year award which will be announced on 3 December in Monaco, where he is shortlisted against two other credible nominees,” he said.
“I have no doubt that his growing achievements and performance will continue to inspire other athletes in South Africa and awake Africa to take its rightful place as the leading continent in the world of athletes,” Skhosana concluded.