If sprint is the game, Wayde is the name. Of course, Usain Bolt is still there thrilling the sprint world. But, Wayde van Niekerk has candidly, forced Mr Bolt to a second place in our hearts.
Van Niekerk wowed the world when he bagged a gold medal for Team South Africa at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
He didn’t only abandon his opponents to trail
His astonishing 43.03sec 400 meters record compelled Mr Johnson – a four time Olympic gold medalist – to proclaim Van Niekerk the next big deal in sprint.
“(He) is so young, what else can he do? Can he go under 43 seconds? It is something I thought I could do, but never did. Usain Bolt will be retiring soon, this could be the next star of the sport,” Johnson declared.
Before the South African champ tears down more walls, you ought to know that he’s already the first person ever to run 100 meters in less than 10 seconds. Aside that, he ran faster than 20 seconds for 200 metres.
Apparently, Van Niekerk comes from a lineage of sports enthusiasts. His cousin, Cheslin Kolbe is a South African rugby union and rugby sevens player.
Van Niekerk was born in Cape Town, South Africa on the 15th day of July 1992. Recalling his birthday, Van Niekerk’s mum, said: “he was so small and so fragile,” I was told he has only 24 hours to live.
Schooling time came, and Wayde went to Bellville Primary. Afterwards, he attended Grey College Secondary School in Bloemfontein.
Celebrating Van Niekerk’s Olympics gold medal, his principal and head of sport at Grey College remarked that the champ has always been humble and is now a role model for the pupils.
Wayde van Niekerk matriculated from the school in 2011 and proceeded to the University of Free State to study Marketing.
The world got to meet Wayde at the 2010 World Junior Championship in Athletics. Then, his personal best time record of 21.02 seconds in the 200 meters, was his consolation prize.
He however, gained attention when he competed the 2011 South Africa Athletic Championship. At the event, he won the 200 meters title. And, reduced his time to 20.57 seconds.
Wayde bagged his second national title when he won the 400 meters competition at the 2013 South African Championships. He improved his time for that distance to 45.09 seconds at Europe’s Golden Spike Ostrava. However, Olymipic champ – Kirani James – denied him the first spot.
Wayde van Niekerk continued to compete and eventually earned his first international medal in the 4×400 metres relay when the South African men team won the bronze medals.
Notable among his numerous great-sprint-deeds, was his gold at the 2015 IAAF World Championships. He ran 400 meters at 43.48 seconds then. Few months later, he made his mark in sprint and became the 107th athlete to set a pace in the 100 meters.
Behind Wayde’s successes, is his 74-year-old great grandma coach – Ans Botha.
Aside sprinting which doubles as Wayde’s career and hobby, he enjoys soccer as he’s a Liverpool Football Club fan.