Ockert de Villiers.
Ockert de Villiers.
Wayde van Niekerk crosses the finish line to break the 400m world record at the Rio Olympics. Photo: Gavin Barker, BackpagePix
Wayde van Niekerk crosses the finish line to break the 400m world record at the Rio Olympics. Photo: Gavin Barker, BackpagePix
JOHANNESBURG – Achieving extraordinary things requires dreams so audacious that it forces you to create a reality that is almost science fiction.

Liberian president and Nobel Laureate Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf once said: “The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.

“If you start off with a small dream, you may not have much left when it is fulfilled because along the way, life will task your dreams and make demands on you.”

News that the IAAF approved Wayde van Niekerk’s request to change the programme at the World Championships in London, to allow him to attempt the 200m-400m double, should have the Olympic champion shaking like a leaf.

Van Niekerk already shattered convention when he broke Michael Johnson’s dust-gathering one-lap world record at last year’s Rio Olympic Games.

The South African joined the pantheon of greats when he posted a time of 43.03 seconds, knocking 0.15 off Johnson’s long-standing record he set in 1999.

Johnson’s world-record run 18 years ago ignited hopes of seeing the first man dip below 43 seconds in the 400m.

And while there have been a few pretenders boasting they would break the record and dip below 43 seconds for good measure, it hasn’t happened, although Van Niekerk’s incredible run in Rio came painstakingly close to doing both.

In the build-up to the Games, he made history as the first athlete to run sub-10 for the 100m, sub-20 for the 200m and sub-44 for the 400m.

Earlier this year, Van Niekerk revealed he had requested a programme change at the World Championships to allow him to go after the 200-400m double.

His attention has since moved more towards dipping below 43 seconds, with the double hovering in the back of his mind.

On Thursday the IAAF announced it approved changes to the timetable for the World Championships in London following requests from the Bahamas and South Africa to better allow for a 200m/400m doubling opportunity.

Boasting a 200m time of 19.94, one would think Van Niekerk is well equipped for the double. The 200m line-up will not include Usain Bolt, who will be drawing the curtain on his illustrious career in the 100m.

Even without Bolt, winning gold in the half-lap event will require something in the low-19.70 region.

Wayde van Niekerk crosses the finish line to break the 400m world record at the Rio Olympics. Photo: Gavin Barker, BackpagePix

Bolt won four 200m world titles, starting with the world record of 19.19 in Berlin and clocking 19.40, 19.66, and 19.55 in the others.

All things considered, dipping below 43 seconds in the 400m almost seems like the easier task.

Although the 200m is considered to be Van Niekerk’s favourite event, he still has to prove himself to be a contender in the build-up to the World Championships. This will be his biggest to date as he continues to pursue dreams that was once considered impossible.

Van Niekerk will open the championships with 400m heats on Saturday, August 5 before racing in the semi-finals the following evening.

The 200m heats have been moved to the fourth day after it was initially scheduled just over two hours before the 400m final on the evening session of the fifth day.

Even with the schedule change, Van Niekerk faces a mammoth task, but the star athlete is not one to shy away from a challenge. He has nailed his colours to the mast, which should naturally compound the pressure and expectations.

The size of Van Niekerk’s dreams should scare him and excite fans at the same time.

Saturday Star