Wayde van Niekerk's love affair with Brazil

2016-08-10 07:11
Wayde van Niekerk (Gallo Images)

Rio de Janeiro - The stars are aligning for 24-year-old Wayde van Niekerk. 

He is heavily favoured to win the 400m sprint at the Rio Olympics on Sunday, and he was Team South Africa's flag bearer at the opening ceremony at Maracana Stadium last week. 

On top of that, he gets to do it all in a place that he has dreamed about visiting since he was a young boy.

Any sports-mad youngster knows that Brazil and football combine to create something special, and for Van Niekerk that combination left him with a deep desire to one day visit the country. 

He is not only living that dream now, but doing so on centre stage at an Olympic Games.

"This was a childhood dream of mine to be in Brazil and get to know Brazil," he said.

"It was something I've always wanted to do. I'm a crazy Brazilian football fan and I think since I was a youngster I thought I was Ronaldinho and Ronaldo and all those guys.

"It was always something that was in my heart but now I have the opportunity to represent my country right here in Brazil."

Van Niekerk confirmed that he will be staying on in Rio after his schedule to take it all in.

For now, though, he is fully in race mode after an experience at the opening ceremony that he described as "amazing".

"Just the team environment alone was something special. I got to share that opportunity with so many guys that inspire me," he said.

"The moment we walked out there the guys behind me were losing their minds and I had a glimpse at them and I saw how crazy they were going. It just brought joy to me; knowing that we're representing our country in a positive light.

"It was a blessing to lead my country out there. That was one thing, now it's time to lead my country out there in my competition so that's my main focus at this moment."

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

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