Olympic silver medallist Caster Semenya has won the 2012 SPAR gsport Athlete of the Year award, beating off stiff competition from fellow Olympic medallist Bridgitte Hartley and South Africa’s most capped athlete, national hockey captain Marsha Marescia, at the prestigious Wanderers Club in Illovo, Johannesburg, on Tuesday, 20 November, 2012.
This is Semenya’s second major award in as many weeks, after she walked away with the Sportswoman of the Year award at the recent SA Sports Awards.
“It’s great a feeling. I feel very honoured and special. It’s great to win back to back Awards,” said a trilled Semenya after the awards.
Over 230 000 votes were cast on the gsport website as the public voted for their favourites to win at the SPAR gsport Awards, South Africa’s only awards event dedicated to women’s sport.
“I think the public did very well in selecting these winners. They’re all very strong women who’ve excelled in what they do. They’ve made us, especially as women, really proud of their achievements,” said SPAR Sponsorship Manager Belinda Nel.
South Africa’s most celebrated Paralympian Natalie du Toit, who was the only individual nominated in two categories, won the Athlete of the Year with a Disability award, but lost out to Pole Fitness Champion Venessa Clack, who was named gsport Woman of the Year.
“I’ m so trilled and proud. I feel so honoured to win and to have been nominated against such amazing athletes. It feels like I have been recognised not only for the work that I’ve done this year but for the past seven years of really hard work,” says Clack.
Junior 800m sensation Thato Makhafola won the battle of the rising stars, beating KwaZulu-Natal’s Lauren Varty and Chess champion Tasnim Amra to the title of Up and Coming Athlete of the Year.
“I feel really honoured. I never expected to win; I just wanted a good bag,” Makhafola said laughing. “I feel really proud and honoured.”
The gsport Coach of the Year award was won by SPAR Proteas netball coach Elize Kotze, who was shortlisted for the award alongside Banyana Banyana coach Joseph Mkhonza, and Proteas women’s cricket coach Yashin Ebrahim-Hassen.
“This is a fantastic surprise, not only for netball but for women in South Africa. I am thankful for women like Kass Naidoo who started this initiative; this is what South Africa needs,” Kotze said.
Rugby writer Tarryn Steenekamp won the gsport Woman in Media Award, while popular television presenter Lalla Hirayama won the gsport Style Star of the Year Award.
“It’s such an honour, it’s so special. It’s not about me just winning; it’s about all the women in sports media. It is difficult being in a male dominated industry; you must be passionate and follow your dreams,” said Steenekamp who beat off strong competition from Carol Tshabalala and Natalie Germanos.
“I’m totally overwhelmed. I feel very privileged. Kudos to Kass Naidoo for starting this initiative and promoting women in sport and women in general. I feel very honoured to be connected to it,” Hirayama who beat off strong competition from LeAnne Dlamini and Jo-Ann Strauss said.
SASOL was named Sponsor of the Year for its commitment to women’s football, both at grassroots and top level, and the SA Hockey Association was named Sports Federation of the Year, for its efforts to raise the profile of women’s hockey.
SA Hockey Association CEO Marissa Langeni was thrilled with the award. “I feel very excited, anything to do with women’s sport I love. There are a lot of talented women in South Africa and they should be out there leading in sports administration,” she said proudly.
The SPAR Recognition Award was presented to BLD Group Executive Chairman Bruce Davidson for his pioneering work in women’s sport sponsorship. “This was a total surprise. Thank you to the gsport4girls team for everything they’ve done promoting women’s sport since 2006. I have always been passionate about women’s sport. There are not enough companies who support it. I don’t do it for the recognition but it’s great to be honoured,” he says.
The Volunteer of the Year Award went to sports volunteer Anela Mahamba, who uses social media to raise the profile of sport. “I feel so honoured. I wasn’t expecting this. I don’t do it for the recognition but it’s great to win. This has inspired me to keep doing what I do.”
The final award of the morning saw women’s sports ground-breaker, Muditambi Ravele, being inducted into the gsport Hall of Fame.
Ravele’s highlights include heading the first-ever Women in Sport initiative in 1996, and playing a key role in transforming netball and attracting top sponsors to the game. “It’s one of the events where you feel good. This is one event where you will see more women than men, which just makes me feel that you know what, there is a way,” Ravele says.
“It is important to celebrate icons and role models because it helps inspire the next generation. Congratulations to everyone nominated especially the finalists and winners. I hope they use this platform to build their brands and that of their respective sporting codes.
“We are grateful to SPAR for partnering the 2012 Awards campaign and giving us the opportunity to shine a bright light on women’s sport,” said gsport4girls founder Kass Naidoo.
The 2012 SPAR gsport Awards was supported by SuperSport, Worldwide Sports, HRG Rennies Travel, Big Five Duty Free Tip Top, Monster Production and Events, and the Wanderers Club.
2012 SPAR gsport Awards Winners: Volunteer of the Year: Anela Mahamba Sports Federation of the Year: SA Hockey Association Sponsor of the Year: SASOL SPAR Recognition Award: Bruce Davidson Style Star of the Year: Lalla Hirayama Coach of the Year: Elize Kotze Woman in Media: Tarryn Steenekamp Woman of the Year: Venessa Clack Up and Coming Athlete of the Year: Thato Makhafola Athlete of the Year with a Disability: Natalie du Toit SPAR Athlete of the Year: Caster Semenya gsport Hall of Fame Inductee: Muditambi Ravele 2012 SPAR gsport Awards Finalists: SPAR Athlete of the Year: Bridgitte Hartley Marsha Marescia Caster Semenya Athlete of the Year with Disability: Ilse Carstens Natalie du Toit Kgothatso Montjane Up and Coming Athlete of the Year: Tasnim Amra Thatho Makhafola Lauren Varty gsport Coach of the Year: Elize Kotze Yashin Ebrahim-Hassen Joseph Mkhonza gsport Woman in Media: Natalie Germanos Tarryn Steenekamp Carol Tshabalala gsport Style Star: LeAnne Dlamini Lalla Hirayama Jo-Ann Strauss gsport Woman of the Year: Venessa Clack Natalie du Toit Sue Pather