Samaai, Pienaar named UJ sport stars of the year
National long jumper Ruswahl Samaai and promising squash star Alexa Pienaar received the top accolades when the University of Johannesburg sports awards gala function was held at the Johannesburg Country Club last night.
Samaai, who hails from Paarl, won the Sportsman of the Year award for the second year in a row after claiming a bronze medal at the IAAF World Championships in London in August with a leap of 8.35 metres.
It was a night to remember for Johannesburg-based Pienaar, who was crowned Sportswoman of the Year and took home the student-athlete award for excelling in sport and academics.
After representing South Africa in the Olympic Games last year, Samaai, a third-year transportation management student, again caught the eye in international competition this season.
Besides his London success, he achieved a first and three second places in the Diamond League series and was second in the national championships in Potchefstroom.
Runner-up in the men’s category was long jumper Andrea Dalle Ave, who achieved fifth-place finishes in Rio and London and won the national title in the respective championships for the physically disabled.
The bronze medal position was shared by hockey star Brynn Cleak and para-athlete sprinter Sheldon Thomas.
Pienaar, a fine art student, helped the UJ squash team to win their sixth title in a row at the annual University Sport South Africa tournament, while also shining at a higher level.
She represented the Ussa team at the World University Championships in Malaysia, where they earned the bronze medal.
This year’s SA Open saw her produce one of her best performances when she finished third, while she played at number two for the SA Country Districts team in the A section of the Kaplan Cup interprovincial in July.
Pienaar won the Hyundai Award at the interprovincial for the “player who portrays the face of the future of SA squash”.
Second in the women’s category was soccer star and UJ captain Thato Letsoso. She was also vice-captain of the Ussa team that gained fourth place at the World Student Games in Taipei in August.
Triple jumper Patience Ntshingila, who won the title at the Ussa championships in April with a distance of 13.11m, was awarded the bronze medal.
In the student-athlete category, which combines academic marks and sporting achievement, Pienaar averaged 74 per cent in her fine art national diploma.
The silver medal went to another squash player, Kyle Maree, who has averaged 72.8 per cent over two years in his BComm degree and captained the Ussa team at the World University Championships.
Bronze was shared by walker and education student Anel Oosthuizen and rugby player and building science student Wian Conradie who both achieved an average of 72.8 per cent.
Oosthuizen won an international meeting in the Czech Republic and was crowned SA champion while Conradie represented Namibia in the Africa Gold Cup and Nations Cup in Uruguay.
Caption: Promising squash star Alexa Pienaar (left) and national long jumper Ruswahl Samaai were named the University of Johannesburg Sportswoman and Sportsman of the Year at the gala awards function at the Johannesburg Country Club yesterday. Picture: Photo: Eon Botha/Swirling Light Photography