South African Athletics

Van Niekerk: I need to make the step up

2015-08-21 15:00
Wayde van Niekerk (AFP)

Johannesburg - A stellar year on the track would come to nothing if sprinting sensation Wayde van Niekerk does not translate it into success at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, starting on Saturday.

Van Niekerk has been one of the shining lights in international track and field this season becoming only the fourth athlete to run faster than 20 seconds in the 200m and 44 seconds in the 400m.

The 23-year-old broke both the South African 200m and 400m records, while he became the first African to break through the 44-second barrier in the one-lap sprint.

He briefly held the African record in the 400m with his time of 43.96 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris in July before Botswana’s Isaac Makwala improved on it the following day with 43.72.

Van Niekerk’s personal best in the 400m is the 11th fastest time ever while his meteoric rise in the international track rankings was further highlighted when he beat Olympic and defending world champion Kirani James of Grenada.

He also has an edge over Makwala, who boasts the world-leading and African record, when he won the Diamond League race in London ahead of the Botswana sprinter, who finished fourth.

On the eve of the World Championships, Van Niekerk was taking the pressures of being one of the favourites in his stride.

“I still see everything the same as always and I don’t let it go to my head,” Van Niekerk told Sport24 from Beijing.

“Everything is now in the past and I know I need to make the step up for Beijing and try and build new memories for myself as an athlete.

“So I am not too fazed of what I’ve done this year because I have to start focusing on what needs to be done and that is where my mind is at the moment.”

The Bloemfontein athlete goes into the championships with the third fastest time this season with his form in July suggesting he would peak at the right time.

The men’s 400m is set to be one of the most exciting events in Beijing and includes a stellar cast.

Van Niekerk’s bid to become South Africa’s first 400m world champion is not paved with gold as he has beat the likes of Olympic gold medallist LaShawn Merritt of the United States, James, and Makwala.

“It is definitely an honour and a blessing to be part of such a big line-up but I first need to make the finals,” he said.

“At this moment it is about staying focused on getting through the rounds and get into the finals and from there I need to do the best I can.”

Van Niekerk made his debut at the 2013 Moscow world championships where he bowed out in the heats with a fifth-place finish.

His heats will take place on Sunday morning while the semi-finals are the following day before the final takes place on Wednesday.

Read more on:    wayde van niekerk  |  athletics

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