IOL Lifestyle Exclusive: Wayde van Niekerk is ready to take on Tokyo Olympics
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Wayde van Niekerk is back on track. His head is in the right place and is ready to tackle the Tokyo Olympics in July.
“I’m in a very good space right now. I’m very excited and optimistic. I’m looking forward to the year,” said Van Niekerk, in a Zoom interview from his training camp in the US.
Last Sunday, the 400m Olympic champion scared many during his 200m race at the Adidas Boost Boston Games. In the race Van Niekerk had a good start until the 150m mark, then he suddenly slowed down and jogged to the finish line to finish fourth.
However, the star explained that he tightened up and he did not want to push for safety reasons, but he has assured his many fans that he is in good shape.
“It’s not something that we should all be worried about. I just tightened up a bit. The new training and environment took a toll on me. That was just my body telling me that it’s been taking on a bit more and needs a slight reset.
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“It was not ideal that it happened on camera but that was my reality, but I’m perfectly fine and working to get used to the new environment.
“But many would have noticed that with that race, it showed the quality of my speed. It shows that I can go quicker and faster. It’s just about getting the elements together.
“I was in the race for about 80 or 90 percent of the time, I just had to get to cross the finish line. That race was going to be one of the fastest races I’ve ever run. The speed is there, it’s just about ironing out the last few creases. I’m going to be a better Wayde than the one you have ever seen before,” he said.
Van Niekerk is yet to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in any distance. He will need to eclipse 44.90 seconds in the 400m, 20.24 in the 200m, and 10.05 in the 100m, while he can also still make himself available for the 4x100m relay team.
Is he running out of time? “ Qualifying is no worry for myself. I know what I’m capable of and I know what I can do. The qualifier is something that I have done year in and year out on a regular basis. That is really not something that is a worry to me right now” Van Niekerk added.
He said that his current focus is getting himself fully ready for the Olympics in Tokyo: “This year I'm strengthening myself in the 400 metres. I’m focusing on that for the Olympic games. I’m just trying to get in those final bits together with my new environment. I’m physically challenging myself, pushing through limits and barriers with the new team and coach.
“I’m settling in very well. I’ve got a massive warm welcome. The new team and staff are very patient and very helpful. Everyone has been going out of their way to make me feel at home. They really made me enjoy my time so far.
“Even the track work right now is totally different to what I used to do, because of the intensity and the level at which I’m pushing my body.
“Travelling also causes a bit of disruption with training. This time is about getting momentum again and race-ready again. I've seen the improvement in myself mentally and physically, so I’m looking forward to seeing what 2021 holds. I’m sure the next time you see me on the track, it will definitely be a qualifier,’’ the gold medallist said confidently.
Van Niekerk is also part of the new adidas 4DFWD athlete campaign and has been using and testing the adidas 4DFWD shoe.
“As an athlete and sneakerhead, the first thing you look at is the appearance of the shoe. To have a product that looks sleek and cooler is amazing.
"Also, when putting on the shoe I love the fact that it’s been designed to accommodate more than just one type of foot, from an elite professional athlete to an everyday lifestyle runner," he said.
Fans have seen him on the track and back in action, but like most top athletes, van Niekerk relies on his family's relationships for positivity.
“My family is healthy, I’m healthy and everyone is good and healthy, and that sets me in a positive space right now,” he said,
What he wants most people to know is that his goal is to get the gold medal and continue to make his country proud, and inspire more people. “With that being said, the goal is to keep improving each time. I have a few solid years as an athlete, I want to also make sure that by the time I retire, I get all the records that I can,” said Van Niekerk