“It has been a fantastic year and it is great for us athletes to get recognition for our efforts,” said Pienaar, who was also received the student-athlete award for excelling in sport and academics.
She said, as an athlete, she was not always aware when people noticed her efforts and this made the award event more rewarding.
The humble squash star, who racked up a long list of achievements, said the award she received at the Johannesburg Country Club was completely unexpected and undoubtedly one of her highlights of the year.
“I was awarded third place for sportswoman of the year last year, but I never expected to be awarded sportswoman of the year,” she said.
The third-year fine art student had her best season to date when she was crowned University Sport South Africa champion while helping UJ to the overall title for the sixth year in a row in July.
She also made it into the SA National Championships and SA Open semi-finals, which took place in Johannesburg in June and July.
“I feel that this year has been my lucky year,” said Pienaar, who lives in residence at the university.
“I have been lucky enough to win the Hyundai Award (for up-and-coming squash stars) for 2017, which includes a full sponsorship with Hyundai, and now this. It is by far my best year in terms of achievements.”
Behind the success however, were many late nights as she worked to balance her studies and squash. This, she said, had been her greatest challenge.
“I spent my nights doing class work while spending as much time as I could on court. I just worked harder and kept pushing myself,” said the 23-year-old, who attended Outeniqua Primary in George and Menlo Park High in Pretoria.