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Wayde van Niekerk determined to 'change the image of athletics'

Athletics
JOHANNESBURG - Winning an Olympic gold medal in a world record time has already placed South Africa firmly on the international athletics map, but Wayde van Niekerk and the new generation of athletes are looking to change the face of the sport in the country.

Van Niekerk is among the local athletes who started a social media campaign to sell-out McArthur Athletics Stadium at next month’s SA Senior Championships in Potchefstroom.

The #FillUpPotch campaign has created a buzz on social media with athletes creating hype around the national championships from April 21 to 22.

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Olympic champion Wayde van Niekerk says South African track athletes are determined to raise the sport's profile. Photo: Khothatso Mokone/BackpagePix

“It is not an overnight thing, if you look at the performances of the guys, we are fighting for our sport, we want to change the image of athletics in South Africa,” Van Niekerk said.

“We single-handedly get our sport to the top because we’ve got not only great local but world-class athletes as well.

“Instead of waiting for these things to come our way, we are going out there and fighting for it. And that is why so many guys are performing so well and doing such great things not just locally but internationally too.”

Van Niekerk received another feather in his cap on Thursday when he was selected to represent Discovery Vitality on a global scale.

Van Niekerk joins a host of other international Discovery Vitality Ambassadors, including compatriot and Olympic swimming gold medallist Chad le Clos, British track and field athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill, and world No 1 tennis star Angelique Kerber.

“The health of South Africans, and especially our children, is very close to my heart,” Van Niekerk said.

“If I can make only one person more aware of the benefits of leading an active and healthy lifestyle, I would have made a big difference.”

The Star

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