The voting is done, and we will find out on Friday who will be crowned the best athlete in the world.

The glittering IAAF World Athlete of the Year awards take place in Monaco, and for the first time in a while, South Africa have a contender in our golden boy Wayde van Niekerk.

The only local athlete to have clinched this title is high jumper Hestrie Cloete, in 2003.

The Olympic 400m champion and world record holder will be up against Jamaican Usain Bolt and Britain’s Mo Farah. In the women’s category, Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana, Elaine Thompson of Jamaica and Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk will fight it out.

Why Van Niekerk should win

There is no doubt that Farah and Bolt are supreme athletes, and they both made history in 2016. But their achievements were arguably exceeded by Van Niekerk.

The 24-year-old South African’s season wasn’t just about the Rio Olympics. He first made the headlines in March when he ran a sub-10 time in the 100m, clocking 9.98 in Bloemfontein. That meant he became the first sprinter in the world to break 10 seconds in the 100m, 20 seconds in the 200m and 44 seconds in the 400m.

Watch Van Niekerk’s Olympic moment:

But what may have been the most important part of his Rio preparation was spending a week training alongside Bolt and famous mentor Glen Mills in Kingston, Jamaica in early June, which had a remarkable effect at the Olympics.

After easily negotiating the early rounds, it was all down to the final. But there was a spanner in the works – Van Niekerk had been drawn in lane eight. It meant that he would be “running blind” and unable to see what his two main rivals – Merritt and defending Olympic champion James – were doing.

That is particularly critical in the 400m hurdles, as now Van Niekerk wouldn’t be able to pace his race accordingly.

Instead, he went for broke and the rest is history.

Many South Africans took to Twitter to offer messages of support and good luck for the sprinter ahead of tonight’s festivities:

Sourced from IOL

Read More:

How good was Wayde van Niekerk?

Mzansi’s 100: Trailblazer, Wayde van Niekerk

Categories: News