CAPE TOWN – Not only does Wayde van Niekerk hope that a documentary about his career so far will inspire others, he says it has already inspired himself.
Van Niekerk spoke to IOL Sport at the premiere of “43.03: The Wayde van Niekerk Story” at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town on Tuesday night.
The likes of champion swimmer Chad le Clos, Van Niekerk’s wife Chesney, cousin Cheslin Kolbe and his better half Layla, and a host of family and friends gathered at the Nu Metro cinemas for the screening of his life story up to now.
The 25-year-old 400m world record-holder, who is also the current Olympic and world champion in the one-lap race, has been sidelined by a knee injury in recent months, and says his rehab is going well.
But it was all about that glorious August 2016 night in Rio de Janeiro and the build-up to that record-breaking point on Tuesday night.
The documentary – which was sponsored by his personal backers T-Systems South Africa – takes viewers right back to Van Niekerk being born prematurely, and the adversity he faced from the start of his life.
“We are incredibly proud of Wayde and the relationship that we have shared over the past two years. We continue to connect with his value system that is centred around family, physical well-being, spiritual balance, commitment to giving back and his passion for South Africa,” said T-Systems South Africa MD Dineo Molefe.
“These values are exemplified by the manner in which he represents our country on a global stage. We made a decision at the outset of our partnership that we wanted to share Wayde’s story with South Africa and the rest of the world as a means to inspire, provide hope and to tell a true African global success story.”
Mother Odessa Swarts spoke proudly in the film about “Waydie” and how he fought for his life as a baby, and how he has continued that fight to become a sporting superstar.
He first achieved prominence on the athletics track as a nine-year-old while growing up in Cape Town, as he attained Western Province Under-10 colours. He moved with his mother to Bloemfontein later, and made serious strides forward at the renowned Grey College.
After some injury problems following his school career, Van Niekerk gradually worked his way through the ranks until his big “Eureka!” moment at the 2015 world championships in Beijing, when he won gold in the 400m. And then he broke Michael Johnson’s record as he triumphed at the 2016 Rio Olympics with the magical time of 43.03.
The likes of Usain Bolt, Akani Simbine and his coach Tannie Ans Botha spoke glowingly throughout the documentary about his work ethic and determination to succeed.
“It was mentioned quite a few times in the documentary about how difficult it was for me to just open up and allow my stories to be told. But watching the documentary now, and hearing feedback and how excited everyone was, you kind of actually feel that it was worth it to just open my doors and allow things to happen now,” Van Niekerk said after the screening on Tuesday night.
“Hopefully it can be a story of inspiration, a story of a great beginning, but it’s not the end yet. It definitely inspired me so much. Normally when I watch something, it’s the story of this one or that one, and here I’m watching my own story out there.
“And I actually get to see elements and angles that I never thought existed, and it just makes me appreciate what I’m doing in this journey, way more than I did initially.
“And I think it sparked a new motivation, a new hunger inside of me to just rewrite the history that I already rewrote.”
Normally sports stars have documentaries made about their careers once they retire, but of course, Van Niekerk is not your ordinary track athlete. He is unusual; he does the unusual – like running sub-10 seconds for the 100m, sub-20 for the 200m and sub-44 for the 400m – and the world of sport is a better place for it.
“If I had to live my life by other people’s opinions, I’d probably not be the world record-holder right now. A few years ago, people told me the record would never be broken, so… I listen to what people have to say – I take the good advice if I get good advice, but other than that, it’s me that needs to do the job,” Van Niekerk said.
“So, I’m getting out there and continuing to do the hard work I’ve learnt to do; continue being as consistent as I’ve learnt to be, and just prove everyone wrong because I’ve got a dream.
“I believe in a powerful God – He’s shown me He’s faithfulness, greatness, day-in and day-out. I mean, a boy from Cape Town that basically started off with nothing, and worked myself all the way up. It’s a testimony to each and every South African out there, to say that ‘If he can do it, we can do it’.
“So, I just want to make sure that I rewrite the history as crazy as possible, so that when the next generation come through, they’ll know it’s not going to be easy feat to get to.”