CAPE TOWN – Luke Davids has just become one of the new stars of South African sport, but he wasn’t even expecting to win gold at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires.
His coach, Nathan van Wyk from the UWC Athletics Club, told IOL Sport about the days leading up to Davids’ golden moment in Argentina on Monday night, when he claimed the 100m title, that they were just hoping to claim any type of medal when the 17-year-old travelled with Team SA to South America.
The 17-year-old Davids has a personal best of 10.31, which he set in Paarl in April this year.
But the expectations changed for Davids and his coach when he clocked 10.56 in the heats in Buenos Aires.
“I said to him someone will need to run faster by 0.3 of a second, and there’s no way that they can make up such a lot of time,” Van Wyk told IOL Sport on Tuesday.
“Going into the competition, we actually just tried to go for a medal – not any colour, just any medal. But after his first run, I said to him he can go for the gold – it was ours to lose.
“He ran 10.56 in the heat, and that was against a strong wind of 2.3 (metres per second). So I knew that time already that he was in shape. The closest guy was two-tenths of a second back.”
Van Wyk watched the race live on the Youth Olympics website, and said the celebrations were immediate after Davids crossed the line in a superb 10.15 seconds.
It was the same time as the world 100m Under-18 record, but it won’t be recognised as Davids had an illegal 3.4m/s wind behind him.
“I wasn’t actually screaming! My phone just went off the whole time. People were calling, and I was very proud to see him do that,” Van Wyk said.
“It is a feeling that you don’t get often, and I didn’t get it before, especially in athletics. It was a very proud moment for me as a coach. There are people phoning him, and he is a little bit overwhelmed.”
The coach was himself an athlete before. Van Wyk is a three-time SA champion in the triple jump, and also participated in the 200m and 400m due to injury.
He says it has been an easy transition from athlete to coach, and he has been honing his “craft” for more than a decade at UWC before finding Davids.
The youngster made an interesting comment to the Youth Olympics website on Tuesday, saying: “I am very different (to Bolt). He is not me and I am not him. We have different personalities.
“I try to focus on my goal and what I have to do. I do not think much about comparing myself to him.”
Asked what he thought of Davids’ views on being compared to Bolt, Van Wyk said: “I don’t look much into it, as Bolt is Bolt. Luke looks up to Bolt, like everyone else, but he doesn’t want to be compared to Bolt.
“Like I tell everybody, I am the coach, and whatever Luke does and says, that’s how he feels. He is very humble, and very funny! He is very committed, and works very hard.”
It doesn’t get much bigger for a junior than winning the Youth Olympics gold, but the next big goal for Davids is the 2020 World Junior Championships in Nairobi, Kenya.
And the world must watch out, because he is equally adept at running the 200m.
Davids, who hails from Belhar and is in Grade 10 at Parow High School, intends to move to UWC after matric.
“Apparently you can only do one event, so he won the 100m at the All African Youth event, so they took him for the 100m at the Youth Olympics,” Van Wyk said.
“But he is definitely able to do both. He won the 100m and 200m at this year’s SA champs.
“Next year, we will take it a little bit easier, as he ran quite a lot this year. Then we will be preparing for the IAAF World Junior Championships the following year (2020), where it will be under-20s.”