This column can’t offer R1 million prizes, flashy new cars or fancy trophies, but it can recognise athletes who have shone at the highest level in their respective disciplines.
My top five sports stars of the year (excluding football, rugby and cricket):
Chad le Clos
With a mountain of pressure resting heavily on his shoulders, after being touted as the next Michael Phelps, Le Clos stood up this season and delivered with a maturity beyond his 21 years.
Le Clos grabbed double gold at the Fina World Championships in July and secured the overall World Cup series title for the second time in three years.
He also broke the 200m butterfly short course world record twice, improving Brazilian Kaio Almeida’s four-year-old global mark by more than half a second, ultimately bringing it down to 1:48.56.
A veteran on the South African track and field scene, Cronje made a stunning breakthrough at international level, taking men’s 1 500m running in the country to a new level.
Cronje secured a surprise bronze medal at the IAAF World Championships in Barcelona in August, and twice broke the SA record in the metric mile, improving Johan Landsman’s 20-year-old mark by 1.63 seconds.
After joining one of the top time trial outfits in the world last year, Impey reaped the benefits and made history along the way.
Impey became the first African rider to don the yellow jersey at the Tour de France and only the second South African (after Robbie Hunter) to win a stage of the prestigious race with his Orica GreenEdge team.
He ended the season by taking silver in the team time trial at the UCI Road World Championships in Tuscany in September.
Cameron van der Burgh
It’s never easy to shine at the highest level for two years in succession, but Van der Burgh followed through on his Olympic gold by securing gold and silver at the Fina World Championships.
It was an otherwise relatively quiet year for the former sprint specialist, but he again proved himself among the best breaststroke swimmers in the world.
One of the best international downhill riders for the last decade, Minnaar defended his title at the Mountainbike World Championships in his home town of Pietermaritzburg in August.
Minnaar secured his third global title and his ninth medal.
He also grabbed his sixth successive medal by securing bronze in the downhill division of the Mountainbike World Cup series.