South Africa’s most influential athletes and contributors to the sport have been nominated among the finalists for the inaugural Backtrack Athletics People’s Choice Awards. Offering recognition to individuals, clubs and events who have made a significant impact during the 2021 season, the award winners will be selected from the list of finalists.


Experienced 400m hurdler Wenda Nel is among the list of nominees in the Senior Women Athlete of the Year category after making a comeback at elite level, reaching the semifinals at the Olympic Games. She is joined among the finalists by distance runner Dominique Scott-Efurd, who competed in the 5 000m event at the Tokyo Olympics and set an impressive 10 000m personal best of 31:19.89 in Hengelo, as well as amputee sprinter Anrune Weyers, who won 400m gold at the Paralympic Games, and rising pole vault star Mire Reinstorf, who made a huge leap in the discipline by setting an African junior record of 4.15m to win the global age group title at the World U-20 Championships in Nairobi.

Sprint sensation Akani Simbine, meanwhile, is among the finalists for Senior Man Athlete of the Year after setting a South African 100m record of 9.84 seconds in Hungary (which also stood briefly as the African record) and finishing fourth in the short sprint final at the Olympics. Other contenders for the award include 20-year-old sprinter Shaun Maswanganyi, who reached the 100m and 200m semifinals at the Tokyo Games, along with shot put giant Kyle Blignaut, who finished sixth in the Olympic final, and Gift Leotlela, who made a spectacular return to form this season by setting a 100m personal best of 9.94 to win the SA student title at UJ and reaching the semifinals in Tokyo.

The nominees for Junior Women Athlete of the Year include Reinstorf, who is up for multiple accolades after her breakthrough campaign; Mine de Klerk, who secured gold (shot put) and silver (discus throw) at the World U-20 Championships; Dane Roets, who earned bronze in the shot put final in Nairobi; and Precious Molepo, who was fifth in the 400m final at the global U-20 showpiece.

The list of finalists for Junior Men Athlete of the Year features sprint prospect Benjamin Richardson, who scorched to silver in the 100m final at the World U-20 Championships; Sinesipho Dambile, who grabbed bronze in the 200m event at the biennial age group spectacle; and pole vaulter Kyle Rademeyer and 400m sprinter Matthys Nortje, who earned bronze in their specialist disciplines.

With individuals, clubs and influencers also being recognised in various other categories, the Backtrack Athletics People’s Choice Awards aims to fill a gap in the sport at domestic level by acknowledging the efforts and roles people have played by growing local athletics and raising public interest.
While some individuals narrowly missed out after delivering worthy performances – including the likes of Paralympic 200m and long jump champion Ntando Mahlangu and 50km world record breaker Irvette van Zyl – the diversity of the nomination panel – which included current and former athletes, media and influencers – ensured a wide variety of finalists across the board.

Congratulations to all the nominees!