Johannesburg – Wayde van Niekerk hopes to make full use of the opportunity, with another national record on the line, as he prepares to line up against Jamaican powerhouse Yohan Blake.
Van Niekerk, who smashed the South African 400m mark in June, will face Blake in the men’s 200m event at the Diamond League meeting in Lausanne on Thursday night.
“When you race against Yohan Blake, or any other big name, you need to step up your game,” Van Niekerk said.
“That’s why I accepted the race, believing I deserve the chance to be there.
“It’s a good stepping stone and platform to gain experience.”
Van Niekerk is no slouch in the 200m event, having finished fourth in the men’s half-lap final at the 2010 World Junior Championships in Moncton, Canada.
After focusing on the 400m event last season, the 21-year-old national champion clocked 20.21 to win the SA student 200m title in April, narrowly missing Morne Nagel’s 13-year-old national mark of 20.11.
He clocked a stunning SA one-lap record of 44.38 in New York last month and warmed up for this week’s race with a convincing victory in a 200m dash, in 20.53 seconds, at a permit meeting in Stockholm last week.
Ready to chase Blake, who is the second fastest man in history in the 100m and 200m events, the South African prodigy confirmed he would have a crack at Nagel’s national standard in Lausanne.
“The possibility is always there (for a record). I’ve been in good shape in training and I’ve been pushing a little extra this week for the race,” he said.
“My goal is to run records in every race because I push all out every time I race, but the times and records I leave in God’s hands.”
Meanwhile, 20-year-old sprinter Akani Simbine will turn out in search of his own national record as he makes his Diamond League debut in the men’s 100m event.
Simbine, who clocked a personal best 10.02 seconds to grab the silver medal at the national championships in Pretoria in April Ä
just 0.04 behind Simon Magakwe’s historic SA record performance – is up against a world-class field including American stars Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay.
On the infield, Sunette Viljoen will hope to regain her best form after a short training stint at home, as she gears up in her bid for a third straight women’s javelin throw crown at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow at the end of July.
Czech world record holder Barbora Spotakova is the only athlete in the line-up who boasts a better personal best than the South African, and while six of the women in the field have thrown further than Viljoen’s season’s best of 64.77m, the SA champion has shown consistency this year and will look to peak this month.
Training partners Cornel Fredericks and LJ van Zyl will compete in the men’s 400m hurdles race, and Khotso Mokoena turns out in the men’s long jump. – Sapa