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Wayde van Niekerk Seeks World Championship Double and a New Career High

As the world bids farewell to Usain Bolt, attention is steadily shifting to possibly the next big star in track and field, Wayde van Niekerk – a man on a mission and South Africa’s golden boy.

Having crashed American legend Michael Johnson’s Olympic 400m record, the South African has set his sights on a 200m/400m meters double at this year’s World Championships in London at the special request of Athletics South Africa (ASA).

“Following requests from the athletics federations of the Bahamas and South Africa to amend the timetable to better allow for a 200m/400m doubling opportunity, (the IAAF) Council has approved changes to the timetable,” IAAF said in a statement.

The South African can now pursue a double feat and possibly become the second man in history to win both titles after Johnson in 1995, following the IAAF’s agreement to alter the schedule at this year’s championships.

“We are excited at ASA that the IAAF Council has acceded to our request to have the long-standing schedule be changed to accommodate our athlete who wants to make history by doubling the 200m and 400m events,” ASA President, Aleck Skhosana said.

Initially, the men’s 200m heats were set for Tuesday, August 8, the same day as the 400m final with the former run a little over two hours prior to the finals.

However, following a recent change in schedule by IAAF, the 200m heats will now be run on August 7 to allow for more than 24 hours of rest before the 400m final.

The 400m heats will be run on the morning of August 5 followed by the semifinals on the evening of August 6.

Van Niekerk’s shuttering speed at the 2016 Rio Games has always begged the question: Will he take up more than one race or possibly two? After all, the greatest and most memorable athletes have dominated and made their mark in more than one category.

While it is a glorious but challenging feat to achieve let alone defend, Van Niekerk is just hitting his strides.

“At the age of 24, achieving a record that’s been there forever, I feel like I still have so much more to prove,” Van Niekerk said in an interview on the IAAF Inside Athletics show.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”This is the beginning of so much more that I can do as an athlete so why not believe.”[/perfectpullquote]

The memorable 400m Rio Olympics gold medal win was not only enigmatic; no one was prepared for just how much damage the South African had left in his wake.

Better yet, the 24-year-old obliterated a 17-year-old record of 43.18sec held by Johnson in 43.03sec.

While that went down as a record-breaker in history, Van Niekerk’s hunger and determination will only continue to grow with the gold medallist still having more to prove.

“200m is my favorite event, it’s why I do track and field because I want to achieve so much in the 200, but due to circumstances and injuries, I didn’t get the opportunity to get into that door,” he added.

“But now that I achieved what I have in the 400m, it gives me more opportunity to focus on the 200m and even the 100m. I really enjoy doing both.”

Van Niekerk aspires to challenge and change the face of track and field, by bringing a new limelight to one the most thrilling categories dominated by the likes of USA and Jamaica.

“Where I come from, South Africa, you always think United States, Jamaica or Europe. That’s where you need to make it and where you can start breaking barriers,” said Van Niekerk.

“That’s become a kind of habit in South Africa where once you finish with school, you go over to the USA.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”I always had something deep inside of me telling me, ‘you can do it right here in South Africa’ and inspire more South Africans to do it.”[/perfectpullquote]

But cautionary opinion follows in an attempt to advise the athlete to steadfast his drive towards world domination.

World-renowned exercise physiologist, Dr. Ross Tucker believes Van Niekerk’s super power lies in the 200m and 400m adding that, it is where the athlete should focus his strength.

“….. Because Van Niekerk has already shown unique 400m abilities, that’s non-negotiable in my opinion.

“I think his build is also perfectly suited to that distance, and so it’s the specialty, and then he comes down to run what will be an exceptional 200m as well.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”100m races are for early season preparation when he is working on speed, but that’s never going to be an Olympic medal for him. The 200m and 400m both will.”[/perfectpullquote]

Regardless of the optimism surrounding his ability to adapt from 400m to 100m, there is no stopping the fire dying to set Van Niekerk’s heels ablaze.

Only time will tell whether he can burn out Usain Bolt’s star that has flourished all too well in the world of athletics.

Van Niekerk told The Times, “I am a 100, 200 and 400 athlete so I will dream for every record there is. What sort of an athlete would I be if I didn’t?

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“Speed is why I do track and field. I love going fast. That’s where my alter ego takes over. I live for speed. That’s the draw for me.”[/perfectpullquote]



Featured photo: Wayde van Niekerk on Day 9 Athletics of the 2016 Rio Olympics. (Wessel Oosthuizen/Gallo Images)

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