‘I’m starting from the beginning,’ says Olympic champion Wayde who’s returned to training after major injury | Photo: Matteo Pittini
South Africans know Wayde van Niekerk (27) as the record-breaking sprinter who makes their hearts swell with pride every time he takes to the starting blocks. Few will forget his Olympic 400m win when some TV stations didn’t even show him in the tough outside eighth lane until he came storming through to victory!
Wayde is an Olympic and world 400m champion, and holds the world’s fastest time in the 300m sprint. He’s also the first man in history to manage sub-10 seconds in 100m‚ sub-20 in 200m‚ sub-31 in 300m and sub-44 in 400m!
South Africans held their collective breath when, while playing in a celebrity touch rugby match in late 2017, Wayde tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and fun turned to horror. Every runner knows this is a nightmare injury that requires a long recovery time. His rehab took the best part of a year. But now, finally, our man is literally getting back on track as he begins light training under the supervision of his coach, the revered Tannie [‘Auntie’] Ans Botha, and his medical team. THISLIFE ONLINE asked him how it’s going, and how he’s feeling about the 2020 Olympics
WHAT DOES IT MEAN to you to be pain-free and running again? It’s a very special feeling. Missing out on a year of running was tough! I’m in a very good place now and feeling very excited and positive about the future.
Was it disorientating to have your whole routine turned upside down by injury? At first I was filled with fears and negativities but once I accepted the position I was in, my entire mentality changed towards them. I’ve now accepted that I have to start from scratch, from the beginning, and I’m at ease with that. I had challenges and ups and downs even when I was healthy, so I’m ready to face whatever else is awaiting me now. I know I can overcome whatever doubts and questions there are around my career.
Pre-injury: here’s how easily Wayde won his 400m race at the 2017 World Athletics Championships in London | Photo: supplied
An ecstatic Wayde after the London championships was unaware that a tougher hurdle was right round the corner | Photo: supplied
How did you meet your coach, Tannie Ans? It was when I started Free State university, where she’s head coach. She was one of those people you were a bit scared of! She’s a legend and you wouldn’t just directly approach her.
How did she end up training you? I got along well with the other runners she worked with and that made it a bit easier to reach out to her and tell her that I’d love to join her group.
You’ve been married just over a year to Chesney. Is it what you expected it to be? I’m enjoying the fact that our bond is even tighter now. To me it’s still being in the same relationship, just that we have rings around our fingers now! Chesney has brought joy and truth into my life since the beginning and there are no massive changes. But now that we live together, we do consider and know each other in a deeper way.
♥ DON’T MISS THIS GOOSEBUMP VIDEO! To watch Wayde set a stunner of a world record as the fastest man ever recorded over 400m and win Olympic gold at the same time, click here (Race starts at 2 mins, 26 seconds on the video)
Why do you have faith in Jesus and what does He mean in your life? Even if I may seem crazy, I’m a member of that group of people who believe there’s a God protecting and guiding me, and helping me with my purpose. Over the years I’ve built a relationship with God which has been very helpful and very present in my life. It’s something one needs personally to experience to understand, and also that one needs to invest time in. The more time I invest, the more I trust, the more comfort and surety I get that I’m going in the right direction.
How are you feeling about the 2020 Tokyo Olympics? The same as I do about any other competition: I need to achieve and better myself, knowing I’ve set the standard where it is today. The only thing I do expect is a gold medal and an improvement of the time I’ve already achieved.
How do you relax? Games are a good way to chill with friends and family!
What keeps you awake at night? Nothing. I sleep very nicely except when my three bulldogs wake me up!