Will it be Olympic gold again in Tokyo? Wayde van Niekerk and South Africa are about to find out! | Photo: Matteo Pittini
If you’re even remotely into spectator sport or supporting South Africa, we’re pretty sure you’ll be watching Wayde van Niekerk trying to beat his own world record at the Tokyo Olympics!
Few will forget Wayde’s 400m win at the 2016 Rio Olympics when some TV stations didn’t even show him in the tough outside eighth lane until he came storming through to victory, obliterating the record set by sprinting legend Michael Johnson. ‘We’ve never seen anything like it in an Olympic final,’ said the UK commentator. ‘It’s a performance to set the hairs on the back of your neck tingling.’
Born prematurely in Cape Town, and in need of a blood transfusion, Wayde (29) is now 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 for 100m‚ sub-20 for 200m‚ sub-31 for 300m and sub-44 for 400m!
His fans held their collective breath when, while playing in a charity 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, and could spell the end of a running career. His rehab took the best part of a year. Then in 2020 he tested positive for Covid. But this comeback king is back on track for his second Olympics. THISLIFE ONLINE asked him how he’s feeling!
1. How are you feeling about the Olympics? Confident and comfortable. I’m hoping to go out there and give it my best!
2. Why did you change your long-time coach, ‘Tannie’ Ans? I spent most of my career under her guidance and can’t express the gratitude I have for everything she’s done to get me to this point in my career. In order to attempt to break my world record, I needed to train alongside the world’s best sprinters so I made a temporary move to the USA to train under Lance Brauman
Wayde with his trainer Tannie Ans, a great-grandmother based at the University of the Free State, under whose tutelage he broke a world record and became an Olympic champion. They had to part ways after many years together when he moved to the USA to train against the world’s top sprinters | Photo: Wayde’s Instagram page
Here’s how easily Wayde won his 400m gold medal at the 2017 World Athletics Championships in London. An ecstatic Wayde was blissfully unaware that a tougher hurdle was right round the corner: tearing a ligament in his knee at a charity rugby match stopped him being able to run competitively for many months | Photo: supplied
Support Wayde! The 400m heats start on Sunday 1 August at 3.45am South African time (eek!) and the 400m final is on Thursday 5 August at 2pm South African time (Tokyo is seven hours ahead of SA, consult the Olympics schedule beforehand for any changes)
3. You tore the cruciate ligament in your knee playing charity touch rugby, eek! What was it like 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 accepted that I had to start from scratch, from the beginning
4. How did Covid affect you and your training? I got Covid when I arrived in Italy for a training camp late last year. I had to go into quarantine for 25 days! It was very difficult being alone in a small room for so long. But I learnt a lot about myself. In terms of training, I think Covid affected me like all athletes around the world, we were forced to come up with new ways of training and to start being innovative. It’s a very different world we live in now compared to the last Olympics, so I look forward to seeing the outcome at Tokyo – as long as it’s safe and healthy for everyone
Running takes you places: Wayde in civvies in Liverpool, whose football team he supports | Photo: Wayde’s Instagram page
♥ DON’T MISS THIS GOOSEBUMP OLYMPICS VIDEO! 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! (Race starts at 2 mins, 26 seconds on the video)
5. We heard you follow Jesus? 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
6. What keeps you awake at night? Nothing. I sleep very nicely except when my three bulldogs wake me up!
‘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,’ says comeback king Wayde
DID YOU KNOW…? Wayde is the cousin of rugby winger Cheslin Kolbe, a member of the team that thrilled South Africa by winning the Rugby World Cup in 2019. They used to play in the same rugby team at primary school 🙂