Caster Semenya was the biggest winner at the South African Sport Awards on Sunday night, raking in three top accolades at the annual gala function at Mangaung in the Free State Province.
The middle-distance star was rewarded for a superb season on the track, which included multiple medals at the Commonwealth Games, CAA African Senior Championships, IAAF Diamond League and IAAF Continental Cup events. In her wake she also shattered national records over the 400m, 800m, 1 000m and 1 500m distances.
Semenya was named Sports Star of the Year and Sportswoman of the Year, as well as People’s Choice Sports Star of the Year – which was decided by public vote.
Semenya missed the event to attend to urgent family matters in Limpopo, her coach Samuel Sepeng said.
Sepeng said Semenya desperately wanted to attend the event but was eventually forced to pull out.
“She so much wanted to be here but she had to go home and attend to some family matter in Polokwane‚” Sepeng said.
“I saw a missed call from her earlier and I will call her back‚ but she is happy about the awards.
“I am sure they will motivate her to do even better in the coming season because we have a heavy programme.”
Sepeng was also recognised as Coach of the Year, while sprinters Jonathan Ntutu and Anrune Liebenberg were unveiled as the Sportsman of the Year with a Disability and Sportswoman of the Year with a Disability, respectively.
Running coach Linda Hlophe was named Volunteer of the Year, while African and South African champion, Akani Simbine was honoured with the Minister’s Excellence award following his great season on the track.
“We congratulate all our winners for their achievements on the night,” said Aleck Skhosana, the President of Athletics South Africa. “It’s proof that hard work pays. We recognise all coaches and backup staff for keeping their nerves when faced with everyday challenges throughout a tough season.
“This a well-deserved and just reward for Caster and Samuel, for they have had to work much harder for success after having to fend off loads of distractions aimed at her performances. We trust this will inspire other athletes, especially female athletes whom she represents as a role model.”