Wayde van Niekerk after winning the men's 400m final in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Picture: EPA/LUKAS COCH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
Wayde van Niekerk after winning the men's 400m final in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Picture: EPA/LUKAS COCH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

South African sprinting sensation Wayde van Niekerk has been nominated for the Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Award.

Van Niekerk blazed to a gold in the 2016 Rio Olympics in a blistering time of 43.03 secs to shatter Michael Johnson’s 17-year-old 400m record.

Other nominees for the award are Ethiopian athlete Almaz Ayana‚ who broke 10‚000m world record by over 14 seconds to win Olympic gold and the Fiji men’s rugby sevens team whose victory in Rio gave the island state its first Olympic medal

Also nominated is the Iceland men’s football team, which beat England 2-1 to reach the quarter-finals of Euro 2016; English football side Leicester City‚ whose odds of winning a title at the start of the division were a whopping 5‚000-1‚ which won the English Premier League for the first time; and German car racing driver Nico Rosberg, who won his first Formula One World Championship.

Van Niekerk said: "I woke up every day‚ motivated to inspire my family and friends‚ but ended up with a double blessing having also inspired a nation‚ which has been an honour and a privilege. My greatest goal has always been to continuously better myself as an athlete and write my own story. All that hard work has paid off‚ winning the Olympic title in a world record time and earning a Laureus Award Nomination."

Olympic champion and Academy Member Michael Johnson had this to say about the man who finally broke his long-standing record: "I have always been very proud of breaking the 400m world record‚ and when I did so in 1999 I knew that you never know how long a record will stand. As an athlete you always know that it is in the nature of sport that your achievements are going to be surpassed someday. But for me it was the accomplishment of breaking it that I am still proud of.

"I was in the stadium commentating when Wayde van Niekerk broke the 400m world record. It was pretty impressive‚ not just running 43.03‚ but also beating former Olympic champions Kirani James and LaShawn Merritt. He fully deserves the nomination for the Laureus Breakthrough Award and I congratulate him. He’s only 24‚ so there could be more impressive accomplishments ahead for him."

TMG Digital

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