Game Recognises Game: Wayde van Niekerk hails Siya Kolisi's mental strength to overcome injury

Game Recognises Game: Wayde van Niekerk hails Siya Kolisi's mental strength to overcome injury

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi's mental strength is one of his most powerful assets, says South African sprint legend Wayde van Niekerk.

Last year, Kolisi completed a near-miracle comeback to recover from anterior cruciate ligament surgery to lead the Boks to a second consecutive Rugby World Cup title just months later. 

The saga has earned Kolisi a nomination for Comeback of the Year at the upcoming Laureus Sports Awards, the Oscars of the sporting world.

Meanwhile, van Niekerk himself is no stranger to the spotlight. In 2017, van Niekerk was nominated for the Breakthrough of the Year at the Laureus for breaking Michael Johnson's 17-year-old 400m world record on the biggest stage at the Rio Olympic Games.  

Speaking on social media, the Laureus Ambassador recollected a couple of phone calls he had with Kolisi regarding the ACL injury, which he had also gone through. 

"Looking at him being injured four months prior to the kick-off of the World Cup¦ I remember him giving me a call saying 'I'm about to get operated on'," said van Niekerk on the Laureus account on X. 

"Then he calls me the next morning and says 'I just walked' and I was like, 'Siya, what are you talking about?'. He said 'No, I just walked'. I was like, 'There's no way you just walked, I know what it's like to go for an entire ACL operation, you can't be telling me you walked.'

"His determination and his strength and his mentality was so powerful, because he wants to lead this country and he wants to show this country what champions look like, what strength looks like.  

"You can't go against that. If someone is that mentally driven to be the best version of themselves, you can't stop them."

Van Niekerk hailed Kolisi and his Bok teammates for consistently being an inspiration to South Africans.

"Siya is so driven and inspired to show our country what greatness is and what strength looks like," he continued.

"I think he's been a real example to each and every one of us. If there is one country that does go through a lot, it's us, and here we've got these sporting heroes that just constantly show us and inspire us with so many stories. 

"Siya is definitely one of the more powerful stories in our country... coming from nothing to be a double world champion."

The 25th Laureus World Sports Awards will take place in Madrid, Spain, on 22 April.

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