JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, November 27. IN what is being described as the "Night of the Swimmers," Roland Schoeman, who led South Africa to a gold medal and world record in the 4x100m freestyle relay at the Athens Olympics was named South Africa's Sportsman of the Year at the inaugural South African Sports Awards at Esselenpark on Thursday.
Schoeman, a graduate of the University of Arizona, led off the Springbok relay in 48.17 seconds and gave them a lead they never relinquished as they touched in 3:13.17, erasing the previous world record set by the 2000 Australian Olympic team.
Schoeman's 48.17 tied with Holland's Pieter van den Hoogenband and the USA's Jason Lezak as the world's fastest time in 2004. It also leaves him tied with Lezak as the second-fastest performer all-time, with only the Flying Dutchman having gone faster.
Schoeman also won a silver medal in the 100 freestyle in 48.23, 6-hundredths behind van den Hoogenband, and a bronze in the 50 free.
The Team of the Year award was won by the 400 freestyle relay, and Schoeman was present to pick up the award on behalf of his team.
South African Paralympic swimming star Natalie du Toit was voted by the public as the SABC-Bonitas Sports Star of the Year and she also took the award of Disabled Sportswoman of the Year.
Mvuzo Mbebe, Managing Director of SABC Sport, said that SABC Sport was delighted to be a major stakeholder in the first South African Sports Awards ceremony to honor the nation's sporting stars, since South Africa became a democratic country for all people ten years ago.
"SABC Sport's live broadcast of the hour and a half SA Sports Awards television channel SABC 2 and several SABC radio stations is further proof of our commitment towards keeping SA's sports-loving fans in touch with their sports heroes," said Mbebe.
"We look forward to providing the people of South Africa with many hours of action-packed sports viewing and listening as we bring international showpiece events such as the 2006 Fifa World Cup, 2007 ICC World Cup cricket, 2007 IRB Rugby World Cup events and 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, into their lives and homes."