Sports minister Fikile Mbalula gave bonuses to 400m world champion Wayde van Niekerk (R50 000), 200m bronze medallist Anaso Jobodwana, struggling 800m athlete Caster Semenya and wheelchair tennis ace Lucas Sithole (R20 000 each).
While Viljoen was invited to the function, the African record holder said she had not been informed she was receiving any recognition and turned down the invite.
She hit out at Mbalula and the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) on social media for being omitted, after the handover was broadcast live on SABC following a New Age business breakfast.
Mbalula’s spokesperson, Esethu Hasane, said Viljoen would be honoured at a later stage, and Mbalula confirmed she would receive R20 000.
“She was invited and will get her own cheque, but the minister did not want to give it to her in her absence,” Hasane said.
Mbalula had apparently asked Sascoc to invite seven athletes, but had been informed that Viljoen was unavailable, along with World Swimming Championships medallists Cameron van der Burgh and Chad le Clos. Viljoen, who recently clashed with Sascoc over the Olympic body’s funding and support programme, said she had no idea she would receive a cheque at the event.
“I can and will not attend every single event if my presence isn’t specifically required,” she said.
“I still have a hectic schedule where I help out at schools, etc.”
While former world champion Semenya was recognised, despite finishing last in her semifinal at the global championships in Beijing in August, there were no incentives for finalists Wenda Nel, who finished seventh in the women’s 400m hurdles, or Khotso Mokoena, who ended ninth in the men’s triple jump.
“The minister has admitted that Semenya has not been performing well, but she has not been sleeping,” Hasane said.
“She won a gold medal at the African Games (in Brazzaville earlier this month), and this recognition is intended to motivate and push her.”
Other athletes in various codes would be honoured later this year, according to Hasane, as part of Sport and Recreation SA’s excellence recognition programme.