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 31.03 Kingston (NS), JAM 11 JUN 2016
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
2016 31.03 Kingston (NS), JAM 11 JUN
2015 31.63 Birmingham (Alexander), GBR 07 JUN

400 Metres

Performance Place Date
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
13th IAAF World Junior Championships 4 21.02 +0.5 Moncton (Moncton Stadium) 23 JUL 2010

Honours - 400 Metres

Rank Mark Wind Place Date
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 2016

 

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 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. 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.

 

Van Niekerk, a deeply religious man, enjoys playing X-box in his spare time, and has a fierce rivalry with his sprinter friend, Akani Simbine.

 

Van Niekerk started the 2016 with a bang, breaking 10 seconds in the 100m as he went 9.98sec in Bloemfontein in March to become the first man in the world to break the three sprint barriers — 10 seconds in the 100m, 20 in the 200m and 44 in the 400m.

 

Van Niekerk faced Merritt in Kingston in June for the first time since Beijing, as they raced over 300m. and he again won in 31.03sec, lowering his own African 300m record.

 

He won the 200m crown at the African championships later that month, crossing the line in a season’s best 20.02, although he was hoping to go quicker.

Coach Botha believes he will end up competing more regularly in that event too. “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.”

 

Van Niekerk was also part of the 4x100m relay team that won gold in 38.84sec at the continental showpiece in Durban.

 

Van Niekerk is unbeaten heading into Rio, as he was going into Beijing.

 

His dream of a golden double is alive and well.

 

Personal Bests

100m: 9.98A (2016)

200m: 19.94 (2015)

300m: 31.03 AR (2016)

400m: 43.48 AR (2015)

 

Yearly Progression

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

400m: 2012 – 46.43, 2013 – 45.09, 2014 – 44.38, 2015 – 43.48 AR, 2016 – 44.11A 

 

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        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 ht   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 

 

 Prepared by Dean Hardman and David Isaacson for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2014-2016.

 

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