'Great things are coming' - Zakithi Nene named 2023 KZN Sports Personality of the year
South African sprinter Zakithi Nene celebrated another milestone over the weekend when he was recognized with the Personality of the Year award during the KZN Sports Awards ceremony held at the Durban International Convention Center ( ICC ) on Saturday night. Nene, who hails from the Ladysmith, enjoyed an excellent 2023 especially on the European circuit, where he won his his first Diamond League 400m race in Stockholm in Sweden and then was selected to represent the country at the World Championships in the Hungarian capital of Budapest.
The 25-year-old who is coached by Victor Vaz, is delighted to have been honoured by his province and expressed his appreciation for the fans that voted for him. "I'm grateful for obtaining this award. Its something I never expected even in my wildest dreams. But more than that, the love I got from people is something I appreciate even more. For people to vote for me, it shows they are seeing the work I have been putting in on the track this year," said an elated Nene.
"I won't say this was the wonderful year but I would say things are coming along. At times, I was struggling with injuries, but I never gave up and managed to overcome those obstacles and deliver. Its not yet where I want to be, but great things are coming slowly. I just have to the progress and results will keep coming," said the New Balance ambassador who dipped under 45 seconds twice this season including a run of 44.74 in Poland which equalled the personal best he set in Zurich last year.
Testament to the good 2023 and his growing popularity is that Nene beat 2023 Rugby World Cup-winning Springbok Grant Williams, Dolphins cricketer Nonkululeko Mlaba, swimmer Matthew Sates and wheelchair basketball star Samkelisiwe Mbatha to the prestigious award. And after reaching the semi-finals at the World Championships in August which came after his maiden Olympic appearance at Tokyo 2021, Nene has big ambitions for next year, chief amongst them being a good performance at the Olympics Games in Paris, France.
"2024 is going to be a crucial year for me with the Olympics happening. I know many rate this year as one of the best in my career but I see the opposite. I'm yet to be at my best. The important thing is that I compete in Europe against the best athletes and that's how I improve. So I have to appreciate my manager for making that happen. My goal is to reach a standard where I will stand a chance of coming back with something from the Olympics."
Aside from Nene's win, the 2023 KZN Sports Awards proved to be a good night for athletics in general. Phantane Athletics Club founded by Mdu Khumalo won the KZN Sports Team of the Year Award.