Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 166 March 2024 | Page 28



T rack of the Best

While there were unfortunately once again no medals for our track and field athletes at the World Champs in Budapest – South Africa last won a global medal in athletics in 2017 – there were still many highlights in the athletics arena to celebrate . Here , then , are our athletes of the year . – BY SEAN FALCONER with ALTUS SCHREUDER
Ask some people what they think of South African track and field at the moment and you ’ d think it all doom and gloom … because many people make the mistake of only looking at the number of medals our athletes bring back from World Champs or Olympics as the defining criterion of athletics success or health . While we did enjoy some really successful returns at the global level in the past decade – notably at the 2015 World Champs , 2016 Olympics and 2017 World Champs – track and field athletics has not brought home a senior global medal since then , but this does not mean our athletes are not performing ! We still have athletes breaking SA Records , getting invites to the Diamond League and other top-level international meets , and flying the SA flag proudly high .
Therefore , when it came to deciding on nominations and winners for the Track and Field category of these Modern Athlete of the Year Awards for 2023 , we looked at several criteria , including an athlete ’ s points ranking for the year and the maximum points they scored for their best performance , their world ranking in their specialist event , whether they set any SA Records , and how they fared at the SA Champs in Cape Town and the World Champs in Budapest , Hungary . As with other categories of these awards , we are well aware that choices can be subjective , and not all will agree with out choices , but these are the athletes that we chose as our winners in each subcategory of Track and Field . ( Nominees are once again listed in alphabetical order .)

Men ’ s Nominees

Zakhiti Nene • Akani Simbine
• Wayde van Niekerk

Women ’ s Nominees

Taylon Bieldt • Marinda Coetzee
• Marione Fourie • Zeney van der Walt
And the winner is …
And the winner is …
Having clawed his way back to fitness after his freak knee injury in a charity rugby game some years back , Wayde went to the World Champs with a ton of expectation on his shoulders . He had won the 400m SA title in April with a 44.17 in the final , ( 1238 points ), and won most of his races on the road to Budapest , including a 44.08 win in Chorzów in July ( 1245 points ), but in Budapest , he simply ran out of legs as he finished seventh in the final .
As a former Olympic Champion , two-time World Champion and World Record-holder , this may have been disappointing to both him and his fans , but he still ended the year ranked number one for his event ( 1404 points ). It remains to be seen whether Wayde can get back to the form and speed that saw him dominate the event for several years and set that World Record of 43.03 in Rio in 2016 , but what is not in doubt is that stood out as our athlete of the year in the men ’ s spints .
In 2021 , Marione claimed her first national title in the 100m hurdles , and then the following year , she retained her title , won the bronze medal at the African Champs , became just the third South African woman to break the 13-second barrier for her event , and made the semi-final round at the world Champs . However , even better was to come in 2023 .
She started with a third consecutive SA Champs title , and equalled her best of 12.86 in the Netherlands on 4 June June . On the very same day , SA rival Taylon Bieldt set a new SA Record of 12.76 in In Italy , but that mark was destined to stand for just four weeks , because on 2 July , Marione flew to a new SA Record of 12.55 in Switzerland . She rounded off her year with the World Champs and made the semi-final round for the second consecutive year , this time finishing 15th overall to the 19th place of 2022 . End of the season , she was ranked 26th in the world for the points standing for the 100m hurdles , and that SA Record performance saw her ranked 17th in the world for the year .
Images : Barco Greef , Chante Foord , & courtesy Adriaan Wildschtt , Karmen Fouche
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