South African Athletics

Boldon tips Van Niekerk for Worlds

2015-07-17 13:10
Wayde van Niekerk (Gallo Images)

Colombia - His sub-20 second run in the half-lap sprint on Tuesday has elevated South African track sensation Wayde van Niekerk to favourite for the 400m title at the World Championships in Beijing next month.

That is the view of four-time Olympic sprint medallist Ato Boldon of Trinidad and Tobago.

"Seriously, this kid is going to be a legitimate star for South Africa for the foreseeable future, a star is born," Boldon told Sport24 at the IAAF World Youth Championships in Colombia.

Two weeks prior to his South African record run in the 200m in Switzerland, Van Niekerk became the first African to run below 44 seconds in the 400m.

In the process he claimed the rare scalp of Olympic champion Kirani James of Grenada at the Paris Diamond League meeting.

Boldon believed this achievement further lent credence to attaching the favourite tag to the South African athlete.

"When he broke 44 seconds I thought three people won't beat him at worlds but when he broke 20 seconds I think he is going to be a problem for Kirani James, who is the favourite," Boldon said.

"But I now think Wayde is the favourite because if you think who has beaten Kirani consistently over the past four seasons, LaShawn Merritt.

"What both LaShawn and Van Niekerk have in common is that they are both quarter-milers with that kind of foot speed."

The 23-year-old Van Niekerk joined an exclusive club of athletes to have run both distances below the dream barriers.

The only other three athletes to have achieved this are Botswana's Isaac Makwala and Americans Michael Johnson and LaShawn Merritt.

Boldon said although Van Niekerk has confirmed he was a class act, his times would have to improve dramatically in the 200m if he wanted to challenge the likes of Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin.

"He has a world-class 200m speed but that is not enough to make you a 200m World or Olympic champion," Boldon said.

"Baby steps, he can be a World and Olympic champion, this year and next year, focus on that, if in the future if he should really improve then you can talk about the double."

Boldon said South Africa's other global athletics star Anaso Jobodwana, who conceded his 200m record to Van Niekerk was equally impressive.

"Van Niekerk is having a stellar season so to compare them right now is not fair," Boldon said.

"But after I saw him make the final in London I felt Anaso could be the next one but you have to improve every year and he hasn't improved that much."

Ockert attended the IAAF World Youth Championships courtesy of the IAAF. His accommodation was paid for by the Colombian athletics federation.

Read more on:    wayde van niekerk  |  athletics

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