Van Dyk nomination a big surprise

2014-10-19 15:00

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South African wheelchair racer and handcyclist Ernst Francois van Dyk was this week “very” surprised to be nominated as Sports Star of the Year for the SA Sport Awards.

The award comes with a car and R1?million in prize money. It was won by Itumeleng Khune last year.

Van Dyk will be up against Chad le Clos (swimming) Portia Modise (soccer), Khotso Mokoena (athletics), AB de Villiers (cricket) and Duane Vermeulen (rugby) for the award. He has also been nominated for the Sportsman of the Year with Disability award that will pit him against Lucas Sithole (wheelchair tennis) and Pieter du Preez (triathlon).

“Given my latest achievements, I was expecting a nomination for the Sportsman of the Year with Disability,” he told City Press this week.

“But I was surprised to be nominated for the Sports Star of the Year award because disabled sport is not as glamorous as sports such as soccer, rugby and cricket.”

Van Dyk has won a record 10 wheelchair titles in the Boston Marathon.

He won the Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability award at the Laureus World Sports Awards in 2006.

His achievements include a gold medal in the handcycling road race at the 2008 summer Paralympics in Beijing, as well as bronze in the wheelchair marathon.

He won silver medals in the 800m and 1?500m races and a bronze in the 5?000m at the 2004 edition in Athens and a bronze medal in the 400m race at the 2000 games in Sydney.

The athlete, who was born with a congenital absence of the legs, won silver and bronze medals at the 2009 UCI Road World Championships in Italy.

He is one of five cyclists under the Cycling SA banner to have been nominated for awards.

The event will be hosted by Minister of Sports and Recreation Fikile Mbalula at the Sandton Convention Centre on November 30.

Other nominees are Greg Minnaar (Sportsman of the Year); Du Preez (Sportsman of the Year with Disability); Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Sportswoman of the Year) and Justine Asher (Sportswoman of the Year with Disability).

An elated Cycling SA president William Newman said: “We are extremely proud of our nominated cyclists and their achievements. By being nominated, they are already winners.

“We wish them the best of luck with the remainder of the awards process.”

Van Dyk said he was impressed with the adjudicators for nominating disabled sportspeople for the top award.

“Disabled sport is very complicated because there’s a great level of technique required,” he said.

While he conceded that although disabled sportspeople did not get as much recognition as their able-bodied counterparts, he had seen a move towards changing this.

“It’s not at the level we would like it to be, but it’s moving forward,” he said.

“When we went to the Barcelona Paralympics in 1992, there was no broadcast of the event in this country.

“But during the last edition in London, there were two dedicated television channels in South Africa.”

Van Dyk said while the last international event he had participated in – the Chicago Marathon on Sunday – was not beamed live on SA television, “there was live streaming on the internet”.

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