Wayde van Niekerk

Athlete Profile

  • COUNTRY
    South Africa South Africa
  • DATE OF BIRTH
    15 JUL 1992
Wayde van Niekerk wins the 400m at the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015 (Getty Images)

Personal Best - Outdoor

Performance Wind Place Date
100 Metres 9.94 +0.9 Velenje 20 JUN 2017
200 Metres 19.84 +1.2 Kingston (NS), JAM 10 JUN 2017
300 Metres 30.81 Ostrava (Mestský Stadion) 28 JUN 2017
400 Metres 43.03 Rio de Janeiro (Estádio Olímpico) 14 AUG 2016

Progression - Outdoor

100 Metres

Performance Wind Place Date
2017 9.94 +0.9 Velenje 20 JUN
2016 9.98 +1.5 Bloemfontein 12 MAR
2011 10.48 +0.2 Germiston 04 APR

200 Metres

Performance Wind Place Date
2017 19.84 +1.2 Kingston (NS), JAM 10 JUN
2016 20.02 +1.8 Durban (Kings Park) 26 JUN
2015 19.94 +0.6 Luzern 14 JUL
2014 20.19 +1.2 Lausanne (Pontaise) 03 JUL
2013 20.84 Pretoria 29 APR
2011 20.57 +1.4 Durban 10 APR
2010 21.02 +0.5 Moncton (Moncton Stadium) 23 JUL

300 Metres

Performance Place Date
2017 30.81 Ostrava (Mestský Stadion) 28 JUN
2016 31.03 Kingston (NS), JAM 11 JUN
2015 31.63 Birmingham (Alexander), GBR 07 JUN

400 Metres

Performance Place Date
2017 43.62 Lausanne (Pontaise) 06 JUL
2016 43.03 Rio de Janeiro (Estádio Olímpico) 14 AUG
2015 43.48 Beijing (National Stadium) 26 AUG
2014 44.38 New York City (Icahn), NY 14 JUN
2013 45.09 Ostrava (Mestský Stadion) 27 JUN

Honours - 200 Metres

Rank Mark Wind Place Date
IAAF World Championships London 2017 2 20.11 -0.1 London (Olympic Stadium) 10 AUG 2017
13th IAAF World Junior Championships 4 21.02 +0.5 Moncton (Moncton Stadium) 23 JUL 2010

Honours - 400 Metres

Rank Mark Wind Place Date
IAAF World Championships London 2017 1 43.98 London (Olympic Stadium) 08 AUG 2017
The XXXI Olympic Games 1 43.03 Rio de Janeiro (Estádio Olímpico) 14 AUG 2016
15th IAAF World Championships 1 43.48 Beijing (National Stadium) 26 AUG 2015
2nd IAAF Continental Cup 2014 4 45.27 Marrakech (Le Grande Stade) 13 SEP 2014
14th IAAF World Championships 5h5 46.37 Moskva (Luzhniki) 11 AUG 2013

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Updated July 30 2017

 

Wayde VAN NIEKERK, South Africa (200m and 400m)

Born: July 15, 1992, Cape Town, South Africa

Lives: Bloemfontein, Free State, South Africa

Weight: 72kg

Coach: Ans Botha

Manager: Peet Van Zyl

 

Wayde van Niekerk heads into the 2017 IAAF World Championships looking to win the first 200m-400m double since Michael Johnson at the 1995 edition, which the US star then repeated at the 1996 Olympic Games.

 

If there’s one way of proving he has grown into his role of world-beater, that’ll be it.

 

The World and Olympic 400m champion, World record-holder of the single lap and holder of the World best performance over the lesser-run 300m, has been breaking more boundaries than a frontiersman in the past year.

 

Van Niekerk first started using his speed while playing rugby in junior school in Cape Town.

He and cousin Cheslin Kolbe were in the same team. More than 12 years later they are teammates once again, this time in the South African Olympic team in Rio, with Kolbe playing for the sevens team.

 

They’re both professional sportsmen now, but even in that junior school they earned some decent pocket money when their teacher offered them money for every try scored.

 

Sport came naturally to him. “I’ve always been active since my school days,” he explained.

“I’ve always taken part in athletics and rugby, my step dad does long distance and marathons and my father did both high jump and now and then sprints and rugby.

“My mother was also an athlete who did sprints and the high jump as well, but then she got pregnant and ended up stopping. I just carried on the legacy. Sport has always been something my family does.”

 

Wayde relocated to Bloemfontein after junior school when his mom, Odessa Swarts, remarried. Because of his sporting talents, he ended up getting a scholarship to the prestigious Grey College high school.

 

Initially keen on the high jump, he switched focus to sprinting after qualifying for the 200m at the 2010 World Junior Championships in Moncton, Canada.

“I’d started training for the sprints at the end of 2009, having done high jump,” he recalled.

“My last height was about 2.04 or 2.05, but the fact that I qualified for the World Juniors in the 200m meant that the sprints chose themselves and after that I started concentrating on the 200m and 400m.”

 

At the World Juniors he just lost out on a medal.

“It was my first time competing abroad and surprisingly I made it through to the finals. It wasn’t what I expected, so I never had goals, so all I had to do was run. I got dipped for third place by the Canadian Aaron Brown. He ran 21.00 and I ran 21.02.

“It made me more determined,” he conceded. “The fact that I’d come from being a nobody to being 4th at World Juniors and performing that well, it told me that I can do well on the world stage.”

 

The fact is that Van Niekerk has been a fighter since his arrival on the planet. Born prematurely at 29 weeks, he weighed just 1.9kg and doctors said the new-born would not survive.

“He was tiny and skinny,” recalled Odessa. “I was told he was not going to make it. He was so sick, so tired he was only skin and bone. I didn’t think he was going to make it.”

 

After 24 hours Baby Wayde had a different plan.

“Wayde has always been a fighter,” said Swarts. “He will fight for something until he gets it.”

 

Van Niekerk struggled with injuries as a 100m and 200m sprinter, tearing his hamstring while winning the national 200m title in 2011. “After that, I kept on getting niggles and scares and it’s taken all of these years (to get back).”

 

Only after joining Ans Botha, the great-grandmother coach, in 2012, did he switch to the 400m.

“The 100m requires explosive speed,” said Botha, who is known to her athletes as Tannie Ans, Afrikaans for Aunty Ans. “The 400m is explosive, but not like the 100m.”

 

It took time to find his rhythm. “We took it very slow, very cautious. We decided to build a nice base, try and fix everything, every little niggle, strengthen what needed to be strengthened and then this year I started doing proper gym sessions. I was always in rehab, so I hadn’t really done any weight training.”

 

It wasn’t just physically that Van Niekerk felt the benefit, as the time spent in rehabilitation allowed him to reflect on his priorities in life.

“I was questioning myself a lot, but I must say it ended up being a very good thing,” he smiles. “I started to get to know myself better as an athlete, but I also started growing spiritually and trusting in the Lord and believing more and it’s something that pushed me through. I grew and experienced so much more being injured than not being injured.

 

That approach eventually paid dividends, with a personal best 45.09 over 400m in Ostrava in June 2013, after securing a first national title over his now specialist distance, as well as an appearance at the Moscow World Championships, albeit one that ended with an exit in the heats.

 

However, it was only in the 2014 season that Van Niekerk really found his feet on the world stage.

“That was the first year where I’ve been injury free for the whole year,” he says. “It was never consistent, before. I always had a little niggle or a little injury bothering me. (2014) was a very consistent year. Since the South African season I ran more consistent and injury free, so I built a lot of confidence from being able to run without niggles.”

 

That confidence soared even further following his South African record 44.38 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in New York in June that year, followed by silver medals at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and then at the African Championships in Marrakech.

 

His early 2015 campaign included IAAF Diamond League victories over 400m in New York, Paris and London, including a short-lived African Record 43.96, clocked while taking victory over Olympic Champion Kirani James in the French capital, as well as his first ever sub-20 second 200m (19.94 in Luzern).

 

The quiet marketing student thus emerged as one of the most talented all-round sprinters to have graced the sport. Alongside Michael Johnson, LaShawn Merritt and Isaac Makwala, Van Niekerk became one of four men to break both 44 seconds for 400m and 20 seconds for 200m.

 

Van Niekerk found his fortune in the 400m, but the irony is that he hates the event.

“Once you’ve been blessed with something you need to use it as best as possible. I’m not going to waste it. I hate the 400m but look how far it’s brought me. It does put me on the floor afterwards,” said Van Niekerk, who collapsed on the track after winning the 2015 World Championships in Beijing. There’s obviously still the Olympics next year. That’s definitely a must that I need to turn up for … I would love to double up on the gold again.”

 

In Beijing, Van Niekerk said he had targeted defending World Champion LaShawn Merritt of the US, who was in a lane outside him. “I kinda knew he’s the one to beat. I tried to get with him as fast as possible and I came out of the first 100 feeling quite good about myself … the nerves were better. I just started building up from there.”

 

The final 50 metres were tough. “It was so difficult because I could feel them coming up onto me, but at the same time I felt strong enough to pull it away. Just that thought, ‘I’m actually busy winning, I’m actually busy winning’ was quite overwhelming. I just tried to keep it up,” said Van Niekerk, who crossed the line in 43.48sec.

 

Before the Olympics coach Botha had predicted he would compete regularly in the 200m. “He really loves the 200m. I think at the end of the day, he will do a good 200m as well. It complements the 400m … he will really excel in the 200m.”

After setting the 2016 Rio Games alight with his 43.03sec run, Van Niekerk hasn’t taken his foot off the accelerator.

 

He took time off, a critical ploy to keep what used to be a frail body injury free. At one function for a sponsor, he watched footage of his Olympic race and then said the guy on the screen seemed like someone else.

“The guy on the track is way more aggressive, confident and believes in himself so much more,” he said. “And then you get me off the track — every second day I’m doubting this and I’m thinking of all these different aspects that could pull me down.”

 

Before the race he had felt some niggles and feared his old hamstring and back problems were going to thwart him on the biggest stage of all.

“I was literally in tears before my race. Working for so many years on this big race and I’m feeling pain. Nobody wants that. I was starting to doubt myself.”

 

It seems hard to imagine, but that same Van Niekerk said he wanted to add the 200m and 100m back into his repertoire in 2017, and go hunting there too.

He started the season pretty tamely, beaten by Gift Leotlela in a 100m dash on home soil.

 

By the South African Championships he was picking up the pace, taking the 100m silver behind friend Akani Simbine, but then taking revenge in the 200m, winning that in a comfortable 19.90.

 

But after he started competing abroad in the northern hemisphere summer, he found extra gears to show that he is growing into his new role as world-beater; he’s already being tipped as the heir apparent to Usain Bolt.

 

Almost every run since has been special — a 9.94 100m personal best, a 19.84 200m national record, a 30.81 300m World best and then a 43.62 400m Diamond League-opener in Lausanne, a time only four other men have beaten throughout history.

 

In less than a year, Van Niekerk has knocked off Johnson’s World, Olympic and Diamond League 400m records, as well as his 300m World best.

 

In 1995, Johnson won the 400m in 43.39 and the 200m in 19.79, times that were then Championship records and which are surely both within reach of Van Niekerk.

 

The South African has the 400m world lead and is second in the 200m behind the 19.77 belonging to Isaac Makwala from neighbouring Botswana.

It’s probably worth remembering that, back in 2015 Van Niekerk broke Makwala’s 400m African record in early July, but his rival took it back the next day. Van Niekerk settled the score at the World Championships in Beijing the next month.

 

Van Niekerk, South Africa’s first reigning World champion in any sport to win an Olympic gold, is looking for new barriers.

 

Personal Bests

100m: 9.94 (2017)

200m: 19.84 (2017)

300m: 30.81 WB (2017)

400m: 43.03 WR (2016)

 

 

Yearly Progression

100m: 2011 — 10.45A, 2016 — 9.98A, 2017 — 9.94

200m: 2010 – 21.02, 2011 – 20.57, 2012 – 20.91, 2013 – 20.84, 2014 – 20.19, 2015 – 19.94 NR, 2016 – 20.02, 2017 — 19.84 NR

300m: 2015 — 31.63 AR, 2016 — 31.03 AR, 2017 — 30.81 WR

400m: 2012 – 46.43, 2013 – 45.09, 2014 – 44.38, 2015 – 43.48 AR, 2016 – 43.03 WR, 2017 — 43.62 

 

Career Highlights

2010   4th        South African Junior Championships (Germinston)       100m                 10.58

2010   2nd       South African Junior Championships (Germinston)        200m                  21.15

2010   4th        World Junior Championships (Moncton)                        200m                  21.02

2011   1st        South African Junior Championships (Germinston)        100m                   10.48

2011   1st        South African Junior Championships (Germinston)        200m                    20.67

2011   1st        South African Championships (Durban)                        200m                   20.57

2011   4th ht   African Junior Championships (Gaborone)                     200m                     21.19

2013   1st        South African U23 Championships (Pretoria)                 400m                  45.83

2013   1st        South African Championships (Stellenbosch)                 400m                  45.99

2013   3rd        SF Universiade (Kazan)                                              400m                    46.39

2013   3rd        Universiade (Kazan)                                                   4x400m               3:06.19

2013   5th      IAAF World Championships (Moscow)                            400m                   46.37

2014   1st        South African Championships (Pretoria)                         400m                 44.92

2014   2nd       Commonwealth Games (Glasgow)                                 400m                  44.68

2014   2nd       African Championships (Marrakech)                               400m                   45.00 

2014   4th        Continental Cup (Marrakech)                                       400m                    45.27

2014   1st        Continental Cup (Marrakech)                                        4x400m              3:00.02 

2015   1st        South African Championships (Stellenbosch)                  400m                   44.91

2015   1st        World Championships (Beijing)                                      400m                  43.48

2016   1st        South African Championships (Stellenbosch)                   400m                   44.98

2016   1st        African Championships (Durban)                                  200m                      20.02

2016   1st        African Championships (Durban)                                  4x100m               38.84

2016   1st      Olympic Games (Rio de Janeiro)                                     400m                   43.03WR

 

 Prepared by David Isaacson and Dean Hardman for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2014-2017

 

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