Wayde van Niekerk has moved another step closer to the most prestigious accolade in global athletics after being confirmed as one three finalists for the men’s award of the 2016 IAAF Athlete of the Year.
The Olympic 400-metre champion and world-record holder was named on Wednesday alongside Jamaican Usain 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.
His fellow South African, middle-distance specialist Caster Semenya, missed the cut for the women’s award. The Olympic 800m champion and national record holder had been recognised as one of the nominees last month.
The three women finalists are Ethiopian Almaz Ayana, who shattered the 10,000m world record at the Rio Games, Jamaican Elaine Thompson, who won 100m and 200m gold, and Anita Wlodarczyk of Poland who defended her Olympic hammer-throw title and twice broke her own world record.
The finalists were determined by a three-way voting process which incorporated the IAAF council and members, as well as fans.
‘We are extremely proud of both Wayde and Caster for being nominated for these prestigious awards after their remarkable achievements this season. We wish Wayde the best of luck, but regardless of who wins the men’s award, both athletes are already winners in our eyes,’ said Athletics South Africa president Aleck Skhosana.
Should Van Niekerk receive the nod, to be announced in Monaco on 2 December, he would become only the second South African athlete to do so, and the first since former world high-jump champion Hestrie Cloete 13 years ago.
Picture of Van Niekerk courtesy of Christiaan Kotze
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