Wayde van Niekerk is upbeat about future after Potch run
CAPE TOWN - COULD Wayde van Niekerk attempt a 200m-400m double at the Tokyo Olympics? Well, he certainly does have the ability to do just that.
Two major factors can determine that possibility for Van Niekerk – finding the required speed for the shorter distance, and whether his body would be able to hold up in what would be a gruelling schedule.
Van Niekerk began his journey to Japan in August on Tuesday evening, when he coasted to victory in the 200m in 20.64 seconds at a league meeting of Athletics Central North West in Potchefstroom.
The 28-year-old spoke briefly to the stadium announcer afterwards, which was broadcast live on the Squared Sports YouTube channel.
“Thank you for having me. It's always a privilege and an honour to be here. I really enjoy running at Potch, so thank you to the organisers. Sorry, I'm a bit tired,” Van Niekerk said.
“And ja, man, I'm looking forward to the season, and hopefully I go from strength to strength. (The time of 20.64) I'll have to accept it. The wind was a bit strong, but you just have to take it as it comes. We all had the same challenge, but I'm happy.
“The goal is to improve myself. As you know, I've got quite fast times waiting for me, so I just want to better that.”
Those fast times are likely to come in the international season, with Van Niekerk awaiting his clearance documentation to fly to the United States, where he will join the training group of 200m world champion Noah Lyles, who is coached by Lance Brauman, in Florida.
The 23-year-old American has a personal best of 19.50 – the fourth fastest in history – compared to Van Niekerk's PB of 19.84. Lyles clinched gold at the 2019 world championships in Doha with a time of 19.83, so working with him is sure to increase the South African's speed in the halflap race.
Having that extra bite in the legs would also bode well for his specialist 400m event, where he has made it clear that he wants to eclipse his world record of 43.03, and become the first athlete to clock a 42-second mark.
If things go smoothly over the next few months and he does compete in both events, his next major hurdle would be handling the physical effects of the Olympic schedule.
The first round of the 400m in Tokyo is on Sunday August 1, with the semi-finals a day later.
The 200m round one is the next day, Tuesday, with the semi-finals on the same day.
The 200m final is the following evening, with the 400m final on Thursday, August 5 – all of which equates to six races in five days.
Van Niekerk will have another chance to compete locally next week if he has not left for the US yet, with a league meeting of Athletics Central North West taking place on Tuesday while the second Athletics SA event is scheduled for the same day in Roodepoort.