The award was decided by the South African public via a Twitter poll that ran for one week. The poll was met with a huge response, with over 40 000 voters taking part.
South Africans had the option of voting for music producer Black Coffee, 2016 Olympic 800m-champion Caster Semenya, opera star Pretty Yende, and Van Niekerk.
Black Coffee was nominated for becoming the first South African to win a BET Award. In June this year the artist was the recipient of the Best International Act – Africa category. Semenya was nominated for her gold medal success in Rio, while soprano singer Yende, who has won critical acclaim in the opera houses of Vienna, Moscow, Milan and New York, has recently released her first solo album.
In the end, Van Niekerk’s superb run from lane eight in the Olympic 400m final sealed the deal; not only did he claim South Africa’s first gold medal at the Rio Games (Semenya claimed the second), but his time of 43.03 seconds also broke the 400m world record set in 1999.
It’s been an outstanding two years for the popular yet humble Olympian. In 2015 he announced himself on the world stage by winning gold in the 400m final at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing. Earlier in 2016 he broke the 10-second barrier in the 100 metres, which made him the first individual to break 10 seconds for 100 metres, 20 seconds for 200 metres and 44 seconds for 400 metres. His performance in Rio then catapulted Van Niekerk to super stardom.
“The South African of the Year is someone who, with a phenomenal achievement, made you extremely proud to be South African,” says Jan Scannell, the man behind the National Braai Day initiative and the South African of the Year awards.
“Our intention is to highlight exceptional performances by South Africans that bring the country to a standstill, and to acknowledge the special moments where the hearts of the nation beat together, united in pride. All four candidates are truly exceptional South Africans, and their achievements should make us all feel proud to be South African. I think Wayde’s performance was just such a blockbuster moment that it made not only our country sit up and take notice, but also the rest of the world.”
The “South African of the Year” is a registered trademark, of which the National Braai Day initiative is the legal custodian. In tune with all activities of the National Braai Day initiative, South African of the Year is being run as a non-profit project with the sole purpose of enhancing the Heritage Day public holiday as South Africa’s national day of celebration.
Source: The South African