Usain Bolt congratulates Wayde van Niekerk at last year's Rio Olympics. Photo: AFP

CAPE TOWN – They have become good friends over the last few years, but Usain Bolt would’ve loved to have faced Wayde van Niekerk head-to-head on the track.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it will ever happen. The Jamaican superstar insisted on Wednesday – ahead of Friday’s Monaco Diamond League meeting – that he will call it quits after the world championships in London next month, and that he will only compete in the 100m and 4x100m events.

That means there won’t be a showdown in the 200m with Van Niekerk, who has committed to running in the half-lap race in addition to the 400m, where he will defend the title he won in Beijing in 2015.

Bolt, though, does think that Van Niekerk is the man to take over his mantle as the face of athletics going forward.

Asked at a press conference in Monaco on Wednesday why he was retiring at the age of 30 instead of taking on new stars such as Van Niekerk and Canadian Andre de Grasse, Bolt said on the Diamond League website: “I’ve done everything that I possibly can in the sport. I’ve dominated over the years.

“I asked Michael Johnson, as I was also surprised when I heard he retired, as he was dominating so much. He said ‘I have dominated so much and achieved all my goals’, and that is how I feel at the moment.

“One person I know who will step up, and he’s been doing good work is Van Niekerk. He’s shown that he really wants to take my place. He’s been dominating in all events – I feel like if he runs the 800, he’d probably do well also! So, he’s the one to look out for.

“You guys know me over the years – I never back down from a challenge. I think that’s one of the most disappointing things of my career, that he (Van Niekerk) came along at this late stage and I could never compete against him. I think he is one of the best hands down, right now.”

Bolt has had a close-up view of Van Niekerk in the last few seasons as the Olympic 400m champion has practised with him in Kingston, Jamaica.

“He is really confident and he really works hard – I’ve see him train because he has come to Jamaica and train,” the eight-time Olympic champion Bolt said.

“For me, I’m never afraid, I live for competition. But it’s too late, it’s at the end of my career. So, we’ll never know what can happen!”

Bolt will take part in the 100m in Monaco on Friday, where he will come up against a South African in Olympic finalist Akani Simbine, who has the quickest season’s best in the field of 9.92.

Bolt has been far from his best this year, with a fastest time of 10.03 in 2017.

Van Niekerk will run in the 400m, while Caster Semenya is up in the 800m.

@ashfakmohamed

IOL Sport

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