CAPE TOWN – He’s already conquered the 400m, but is the 100m and 200m a realistic dream for Wayde van Niekerk?
The man himself has no doubt about it. “Very real. Like I said in the documentary, I’ve been blessed with a talent, blessed to run fast. I’ve shown in the 100, 200, 400 – so who am I to take that for granted and let it go to waste.
“So, if I get the time to invest in any event, I’m gonna do it. That’s why I’ve been put on earth, I’ve been here to inspire, to tell my testimony and work hard for my dream.
“And I’m not going to let it slip in any area,” Van Niekerk told IOL Sport at the launch of his documentary, ‘43.03: The Wayde van Niekerk Story’ at the V&A Waterfront on Tuesday night.
The 400m world record-holder has been off the track ever since that fateful October 7 at Newlands last year, an historic moment in Cape Town as the All Blacks returned to the Mother City for a Rugby Championship Test against the Springboks.
Having played a bit of rugby at school – and former Stormers star Cheslin Kolbe is his cousin – Van Niekerk was excited to be part of the festivities.
He took part in a tag rugby match before the Bok game, and slipped on the lush Newlands turf, which resulted in knee surgery.
He announced on October 31 that he will be out for six months, and although it’s now eight months later, Van Niekerk is not rushing anything.
“There is (a) time (frame), there are months... A few more months left. We can put numbers out there, but the body dictates the results,” he said.
“So, it’s really about listening to my body, feeling how my body feels, push it as far as I can, but not taking any shortcuts or rushing anything.
“My rehab is going amazing. I feel good – mentally, spiritually, I feel on top of everything. Physically, it’s more of a patience battle right now. So, it’s really just about listening to my body, taking it day by day, and working from there.
“But with the team I’ve got around me right now – right around the world – there’s nothing but greatness waiting ahead of me. That’s where my mentality is at, and that’s where it’s going to stay.”
Van Niekerk is missing out on the current Diamond League season, so perhaps a more realistic return could be the next South African summer.
But he’s not missing out on much at the moment, as the next big athletics event is the world championships in Doha, Qatar in September 2019.
That gives him more than enough time to get up to speed – literally – in the 100m and 200, which he admits are his preferred distances compared to the 400m.
“Just seeing how my life is working out, and where it’s going, I have no doubt at all that there are greater things ahead of me,” Van Niekerk said.
“Already, I feel like a stronger athlete, stronger mentally. It’s just about getting myself there physically – it’s a lot of patience involved now, a lot of hard work, something I’m no stranger to.
“I know how to work hard, I know what is expected of me to get back to the top – because I’ve been there before. But now I want to get beyond the top... That’s where my mentality, my heart is at now. That’s what I believe.
“I have the world championships in Doha, Qatar next year. I need to get back to gold-medal status, and then Tokyo is the next goal from there.
“But right now, I’m focused on my rehab and don’t want to get ahead of myself. I need to listen to my body, and my body dictates my next step. Tests are booming, I’m feeling great. Trust me when I say I’m on it, I’m on it.”