Moment of truth for Van Niekerk

2016-08-14 10:02
Wayde van Niekerk (Getty Images)

Rio de Janeiro - South Africa's Wayde van Niekerk will run in lane 8 in Sunday's 400m final at Olympic Stadium, but he insists that will not be an issue in his quest for gold. 

Van Niekerk finished second in his semi-final on Saturday (Sunday morning, SA time) but fifth overall for Sunday's final. 

The current world champion was considered the favourite by many for the gold medal in the build-up to Rio 2016, but the form of Kirani James and Lashawn Merritt is making waves at the moment. 

Despite the enormity of the occasion, Van Niekerk looked a relaxed figure after his semi-final.

"Pressure? No pressure at all," the 24-year-old said when asked if he was feeling the heat as the biggest night of his career approached.

"I feel comfortable. I got to open up way more than yesterday (heats). The nerves are all washed out now."

Van Niekerk was his usual soft-spoken and measured self when addressing media after his 44.45 run in the semi, and he didn't seem too concerned at all with the lane allocations. 

"I don't mind wherever I am. It's a final and we're all running 400m," he said.

On his potential battle with James and Merritt, Van Niekerk was quick to point out that there were five other runners in the race who posed threats.

"Everyone that's in the final is a concern," he said.

"Kirani James and Lashawn Merritt ... these guys and their accomplishments speak for themselves.

"I'm just going to go out there and have fun and challenge these guys. I'm just grateful to be in a race with them."

Lloyd Burnard is Sport24's correspondent in Rio de Janeiro for the duration of the 2016 Olympics ...

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